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Thursday November 16, 2000

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Student killed in motorcycly accident was intoxicated, police say

By Hillary Davis

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Phi Delta Theta fraternity has no-alcohol policy; national office is investigating case

A UA student who died in a Labor Day motorcycle collision was operating his motorcycle under the influence of alcohol, police said - and that might not bode well for his fraternity, which has a no-alcohol policy.

James Thomas Haley, a 19-year-old aerospace engineering freshman, had a blood alcohol content of 0.102 percent - two-thousandths of a percent over Arizona's legal limit - at the time of his death on Sept. 4, said Sgt. Judy Altieri, a Tucson Police Department spokeswoman.

Haley was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, which banned alcohol from functions at the University of Arizona chapter house, 1745 E. Second St., in 1998.

If Haley is found to have been drinking at the Phi Delta Theta house before he died, penalties could possibly be levied against the 17-member fraternity, said Chris Cortina, director of risk management and housing at the national Phi Delta Theta headquarters in Ohio.

"In any case where people violate our risk management policy - which is alcohol-free housing - it really varies from case to case, depending on the severity of it," he said.

Cortina said national officials are investigating the incident, but because of the ongoing status of the investigation and the "pretty delicate" situation Haley's death presents to the UA chapter, he could not speculate on the severity of the penalties.

However, he added that the chapter is considered innocent until proven otherwise. After helping fraternity members cope with Haley's death, officials will begin asking questions to determine exactly what transpired the night Haley died, Cortina said.

Upon completion of the investigation, fraternity lawyers will decide who, if anybody, within the UA chapter could be held responsible for Haley's death.

"It really is up to what the facts of the case become," he said. "Once the lawyers get involved, it's up to them who they deem liable."

Cortina admitted that alcohol-related deaths within the fraternity happen "more than we would care to see."

In 1993, a 19-year-old student from Auburn University in Alabama died after choking on his own vomit at a Phi Delta Theta party, and in 1998 a University of Michigan freshman fell to her death from a sixth-floor window after partying at the campus' Phi Delta Theta house.

The Auburn chapter was suspended, and the Michigan chapter was kicked off campus following the deaths.

Although the fraternity's national leaders are aware that Haley was killed following the consumption of alcohol, other members of the UA chapter did not offer any knowledge of Haley's drinking habits.

Tim Otten, Haley's roommate and a business and criminal justice sophomore, would not say whether or not Haley had been drinking at a fraternity function at the house the night he died.

"I don't know," he said about Haley's actions.

Adrian Ortiz, Phi Delta Theta president, also refused comment this week.

"I can't comment on that right now," he said.

Haley was killed after his motorcycle struck a tow truck at West First Street and North Cherry Avenue at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 4. Haley failed to yield to a stop sign at the intersection and was not wearing a helmet.

Haley, known as J.T., had just begun his second semester at the UA, and was a member of the UA Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. Hailing from Prescott, Haley attended Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix and had aspirations of becoming a naval fighter pilot.

Brett Erickson and Ryan Gabrielson contributed to this report.