CHICO (KPIX 5) — Fraternity brothers at California State University at Chico are accused of hacking down dozens of trees in a national forest.
They’re facing criminal charges for allegedly going on a tree-cutting binge in Lassen National Forest as part of an initiation ceremony for new pledges.
But the brothers say they didn’t do anything wrong.
It’s finals weeks at Chico State and the men of Pi Kappa Alpha are laying low.
It’s not just the pressure of final exams, it’s also the pressure of a federal investigation.
The U.S. Forest Service says the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Chico State left a mess at a campground and now they’re all charged with federal crimes, including their president, Evan Jossey, from Pleasant Hill.
Chico State student Mark Anderson said, “It sounds like they got a little out of hand in the middle of nowhere and caused some damage. Poor judgment and planning.”
It happened in April at, according to their own pictures, an initiation event.
According to the charges, the group illegally chopped down more than 32 trees and fired guns.
A campground visitor took photos of the mess after the group left.
Ray Mooney with the U.S. Forest Service said he couldn’t understand how anyone would want to disrespect the forest in this way.
The chapter doesn’t have a house, but it’s Facebook page says it denies at least some of the allegations launched against them.
But the U.S. Forest Service released surveillance photos of young men buying the tools they believe were used in the vandalism.
Each member now faces vandalism, illegal firearms and degrading U.S. territory charges.
According to their Facebook page, they also face threats from the community. And fellow students say, the scorn of fellow fraternities.
The fraternity and its president will be in court June 26, 2017. But more charges may be headed their way.