The former Creighton University student and fraternity member accused of slashing an 18-year-old woman’s neck rejected a plea deal in November.
He wanted to take his chances at trial.
But two weeks ago, Douglas County District Judge Shelly Stratman ruled that she wouldn’t allow evidence of alleged hazing by the now-closed fraternity to be used as a defense.
So 20-year-old Christopher Wheeler changed his mind , and on Tuesday he accepted the plea.
“We would probably lose 7 or 8 times out of 10 if we had a trial and can’t give that information,” said Wheeler’s attorney, Steve Lefler.
Wheeler pleaded no contest to second-degree assault. In exchange , the Douglas County Attorney’s Office dropped a weapon charge.
Wheeler faces a maximum of 20 years in prison when Stratman sentences him in June.
Authorities have said that on Feb. 11, 2017, Wheeler, who was drunk and high, went into the Creighton dorm room of a woman he didn’t know. As he left, he turned around and swiped at her neck with his pocketknife. The woman was scarred but not seriously injured.
Lefler continues to speculate that Wheeler was slipped a drug when he was forced to drink with fraternity brothers at Phi Kappa Psi that night.
Lefler said Wheeler wanted to go to trial because his family wanted to shed light on the horrors of hazing.
“It is concerning to me that there does seem to be a disproportionate meter of punishment in this case,” Lefler said, referring to members of the fraternity who have not been charged in connection with the incident.
Creighton officials last year suspended the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity until 2025 after an investigation revealed underage drinking, drug distribution and hazing. The house, formerly at 36th and Farnam Streets, has been razed.
Stratman said that while hazing may have occurred, Wheeler took many steps on his own. He illegally purchased vodka at a Walmart that evening and voluntarily smoked marijuana. The then-19-year-old pledge could have chosen not to party with his new fraternity brothers, the judge said. Further, she said, he did not present any evidence that he was under the threat of physical harm if he didn’t get drunk or high.
Wheeler is now a sophomore at a Kansas college, Lefler said. Wheeler’s family isn’t planning to sue the fraternity, he said.
“The whole family made the decision that this was probably in his best interest,” Lefler said. “At some point in time, the young man has to move on with his life. Today was the day he decided to do so.”