An 18-year-old University of Central Arkansas student accused of raping a female student after leaving a fraternity party on campus Friday night has pleaded not guilty.
Online records show Michael "Mickey" Zeher is charged with rape, a Class Y felony, after allegedly raping a girl after leaving a party at the Sigma Tau Gamma House. Zeher is not a member of and not affiliated in any way with the fraternity, according to UCA fraternity president Garrett McKamie and the Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity National Headquarters Chief Executive Officer Steve Latour.
Zeher’s attorney, Brad J. Williams, filed a waiver of formal arraignment Monday in Faulkner County Circuit Court on Zeher’s behalf.
"Undersigned respectfully requests that this Court allow Defendant to waive formal arraignment and enter a plea of not guilty on the docket of this case," the notice reads.
Zeher was scheduled to appear in circuit court at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 in reference to the aforementioned charge. Following this notice, his appearance on that date has been waived and a subsequent pretrial hearing will be set on that date.
According to a probable cause affidavit, university police spoke with the victim and her friends at Bear Hall following the incident. One of the victim’s friends informed the officer that Zeher had walked the victim back to where they lived, separately, at Bear Hall because the victim was "intoxicated and not feeling well."
It was not clear as of press time Tuesday if either the victim or the accused drank at the party or had alcohol beforehand but the victim left the party intoxicated.
Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity National Headquarters CEO Steve Latour said all Sigma Tau Gamma fraternities across the country have adopted a policy which states that parties can be held and "if alcohol is present, [they are] welcome to do that," but only those of legal drinking age and alcohol cannot be distributed or paid with by chapter funds.
However, the University of Central Arkansas’ campus policy states that "no alcoholic beverages will be served on any occasion on university premises," which all fraternity houses are included in, according to university officials.
Latour and UCA’s Division of Student Services said there will be an investigation into the party.
Latour — who told the Log Cabin Democrat that the Sigma Tau Gamma national headquarters has started its own investigation to find out what happened — said he can’t answer whether there was alcohol at the party or not, but it is not something UCA allows.
Another issue that he touched on was the open party vs. closed party policy. He said the university does not allow chapters to hold open parties. Instead, UCA requires guest lists for the closed parties, which means partygoers should be on a guest list and show an ID to get in.
Latour said based on initial ruling, the UCA chapter "didn’t follow that," and from the police report several hundred people attended the event which was "more than we would have allowed."
Currently, he said, it is also unclear whether Zeher was on the guest list or whether he was turned away at the door.
"That’s the part we need to figure out as well," Latour said.
The national headquarters, Latour said, works hard to help the fraternities understand that it’s good to have fun and enjoy their college experience but it’s important to be responsible and put in the proper safety measures and adhere to protocols. He said moving forward they plan to work with the UCA chapter to figure out exactly what happened on the night in question and continue from there.
"They won’t be having anything for awhile," Latour said.
He said the crime that was committed was reprehensible and they are "definitely thinking about" the victim of the incident.
This is not the first incident that Latour has had to weigh in on.
In Oct. 31, 2016, UCA student and former Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity member Brock Denton was expelled from the fraternity after he posted a photo on Instagram during a Halloween Party where Denton dressed up as Bill Cosby wearing a multi-colored sweater and blackface with a caption that read, "it was a bold night," standing beside other members of the fraternity.
The photo was condemned by headquarters in a news release stating that the exhibited behavior was not tolerated and would require "swift and immediate action."
From this incident, the UCA Sigma Chapter was suspended.
"We have a duty and responsibility to practice the principles we espouse to uphold and act in a responsible manner in all of the behaviors we exhibit as members of the fraternity," Latour previously said about the incident.