Two Rutgers students critically injured in brawl involving fraternity members, others

Monday, October 13th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) _ Two Rutgers University students were critically injured in an off-campus brawl that involved members of a Rutgers fraternity, a social club and some members of the school's wrestling team.

The fight broke out around 3:30 a.m. Sunday at an off-campus party following an argument, officials said. Seven people were charged.

From 30 to 35 people were on each side of the street fight, with some swinging poles or wooden sticks, said Mark Strampfer, 21, a Rutgers senior and witness.

John P. Morin, and Robert Morgan, both 20, received serious head injuries when they were struck with a baseball bat, authorities said.

Morin was listed in critical condition Monday at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, spokesman John Patella said. The hospital released no information about Morgan at the request of his family, Patella said.

Police and university officials deferred all questions to the Middlesex County prosecutor's office on Monday.

Bill Lamb, an assistant prosecutor, said the fight involved some members of the Sigma Pi fraternity, the wrestling team and Squam, a social club that is not recognized by the school. The attack happened outside a house where the social club was having a party, and both injured students allegedly belong to Squam.

Jonathan Rodriguez, 23, who allegedly wielded the bat, was a Rutgers student and member of the wrestling team last year, but had taken this semester off. He faces weapons offenses, assault and rioting charges, and was being held without bail.

His twin brother, Kenneth Rodriguez, a senior and member of the wrestling team, was charged with conspiracy to commit riot, hindering the investigation and a weapons offense. He was being held on $150,000 bail.

Five others faced rioting charges. Four attended Rutgers; the fifth was visiting from another college.

Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick said in a statement that the school ``will pursue all appropriate actions against any Rutgers students who took part in the incident.''

Squam, the social club where the fight took place, is owned by a private corporation and was a fraternity house until 1999, according to university records. It was once a fraternity that had its chapter revoked for safety violations and is now considered an off-campus housing unit and not covered by university regulations for fraternities.

At the Squam house, candles left over from a Sunday night vigil lined the porch. There was also a sign that read: ``John and Rob, our prayers are with you.''