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Fraternities, Hazing, & You:
Don’t Cut Down Rare Tree’s on Campus (or at all)

Three College Boys Cut Down a Tree For an Unofficial Fraternity

Pictured: The tree stump of the rare Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain Pine tree

Thousands of  college students around the country join fraternities and sororities. It is a tradition for pledges to participate in hazing and pledge activities which are usually wild acts that are supposed to show their loyalty to the fraternity or sorority. Sometimes these acts are illegal and there is the possibility of students facing legal consequences.

In November 2020 a  rare 25-foot Algonquin Pillar Swiss Mountain Pine tree on the University of Wisconsin Arboretum campus was cut down. The area where the tree was located is 30 yards from campus and is a popular area for joggers, bicyclists, etc. The local police and campus security acted on a tip they were given about who might have stolen the tree. 

On March 26 three 19 year old college students admitted to cutting down the tree as part of pledge activity to the former Chi Phi fraternity. This fraternity has not been recognized as an official school organization since 2015. This means it is not an official fraternity supported and funded by the University of Wisconsin. These 3 guys admitted to buying a  chainsaw, renting a U-Haul, and stealing the tree. After hearing about how rare the tree was they destroyed it and disposed of it outside of the city line.

Each student was cited a $200 fine for cutting down the tree. More details about the legal action taken place were not disclosed due to privacy laws related to student discipline. However, the students can face both campus discipline as well as criminal sanctions.

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Questions:

1. The fraternity that the 3 guys were pledging was not an official college organization. How might their campus discipline and legal consequences be different if it was a campus recognized fraternity? Would there be any difference at all?

2. How might the consequences be different if the tree was a more common species of pine tree? What if this did not happen on a college campus?

3. Are there any laws in Nevada that prevent someone from cutting down a tree?

4. What would the consequences be if this happened at a Nevada University like UNLV or UNR?

Be sure to provide full explanations for your answers.  For more details, you can read the article this piece was sourced from here:

https://www.ketk.com/news/weird-news/3-students-cited-in-theft-of-rare-tree-in-wisconsin/

Contributed by Saralynn Lindsay

A YouTube Video That Ended in an Arrest

Pictured: Aldo Gonzalez, the man who filmed the hazmat suit prank

We live in a world where kids spend more time on the internet than they do outdoors. With YouTube and Tik Tok there is an endless supply of prank ideas for kids to use on their parents or even strangers. Sometimes these pranks seem harmless  yet there are victims. When the only one left laughing will be the prankster, the wannabe comedian may want to rethink their plans. This is especially true if the law can become involved. 

Take this incident for example from March of 2020. At the time, Aldo Gonzalez was a 23 year old resident of Las Vegas, Nevada who had a “hilarious” idea.  He and an unidentified juvenile friend of his would dress up in painter suits and go around a local Walmart spraying people with water for a YouTube video.  The two young men hoped the video would go viral.  

Seems funny right? There were two problems with the prank though – it was taking place when the world was just beginning to come to grips with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic was happening, and no one at the store knew it was water (except – of course – for the pranksters).

Since the victims of the prank did not know what was being sprayed, the Walmart was evacuated and the police were called.  The shoppers (understandably) thought they were being sprayed with a much more harmful substance than water.

The police showed up to Gonzalez’s house and arrested him for spraying a hoax substance in a public place….and burglary!  He was the one behind the camera and his friend was the one running around spraying people.  While juvenile records aren’t public, we can reasonably assume the young man that did the spraying faced serious legal consequences as well. 

We see pranks like this on social media all the time thinking it’s harmless and funny. Somethings we might even want to try for ourselves. Next time you see a prank online think about the consequences and if others would find it funny.

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Questions:

1. What charges might the juvenile suspect face for the crime, and what long-term consequences might they face as adults for this incident?

2. Why was Gonzalez charged with burglary?

3. What other state charges could Gonzalez face besides burglary and ‘spraying a hoax substance’?

4. What federal charges – if any – could Gonzalez and the juvenile have faced, or why would they have not faced state charges?

5. What are some other “pranks” that might result in a young person being criminally charged, and what might those charges be?

Be sure to provide full explanations for your answers.  For more details, you can read the article this piece was sourced from here:

https://www.8newsnow.com/news/local-news/report-suspect-wore-hazmat-suit-sprayed-liquid-in-walmart-to-make-funny-video-to-post-online/ 

Contributed by Saralynn. Lindsay




Thank you for letting us watch the civil case!  It was cool because it was a real case and not one played out. I had a lot of fun watching the other kids act out a session.  Thank you for your time.

- Kaylie [Hewetson Elementary - Grade 5]

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2020-12-11T20:39:35+00:00
Thank you for letting us watch the civil case!  It was cool because it was a real case and not one played out. I had a lot of fun watching the other kids act out a session.  Thank you for your time. - Kaylie [Hewetson Elementary - Grade 5]

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2020-12-16T21:47:04+00:00
My favorite part of the fieldtrip to the courthouse is when I got to play the part of Ron. I got to go on the witness chair and speaking. I helped Potter to be not guilty. Thank you for the great opportunity. - Johnathan M  [Harmon Elementary - Grade 4]

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2020-12-16T22:04:09+00:00
Thank you for letting us experience court for the first time.  It was the best experience ever, thank you for everything. You really made me think about being a judge. Thank you -Mina L [ Twitchell Elementary - Grade 5]
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