Grand Jury Recommends Criminal Charges in FSU Frat Hazing Death
An autopsy determined 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning and had a blood alcohol content of .447.
On Tuesday, a Leon County grand jury recommended prosecutors pursue criminal charges against members of Florida State University’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity after a pledge died in November.
“The brothers, pledges, and officers were more concerned about getting in trouble than they were about trying to save Coffey’s life,” the grand jury said in its presentment.
Court records indicate a pledge waited 11 minutes to call 911 after discovering 20-year-old Andrew Coffey had no pulse the morning after a party, reports CNN. The pledge called and texted five other fraternity members before calling for help.
The grand jury said that although those 11 minutes would not have saved Coffey’s life, the delay in summoning help was representative of the culture of the fraternity.
Coffey was at the fraternity on November 2 for “Big Brother night”, a party to celebrate pledges joining the fraternity. The fraternity was under a liquor ban but pledges were told by fraternity members that the ban was lifted only for Big Brother Night. Coffey was given a bottle of bourbon.
An autopsy determined Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning and had a blood alcohol content of .447, according to USA Today. Testing of additional bodily fluids indicated his peak BAC reached up to .558.
FSU suspended all fraternity and sorority activity after Coffey’s death while the school works to create a “new normal” for Greek life, according to FSU President John Thrasher. Thrasher also issued a campus-wide alcohol ban for all student organization events. The sanctions will remain in place until January 8 when students return from winter break. No indication has been made of when the ban will be lifted.
Majority of Pledges, Brothers Refused to Speak to Investigators
The grand jury’s presentment included a letter from Coffey’s mother, Sandy, stating her son “died alone in a room full of people”.
Coffey was reportedly unconscious on a couch while fraternity members continued to drink and play pool around him.
“The Pi Kappa Phi creed uses words like loyalty, responsibility, standards, conduct. Easy words to put down on paper. Obviously more difficult to live by,” continued Sandy’s letter.
The jury indicated the most concerning aspect of the case was the “culture of secrecy” in the fraternity. The presentment said conspiracy and obstruction were present in the case as 19 pledges and 22 brothers refused to speak to investigators. Seven members of the fraternity’s leadership council refused to speak to investigators as well.
Those who did speak, says the jury, gave testimony that sounded “rehearsed, as if they were speaking off of a script. They presented many of the same answers as each other and volunteered much self-serving information without being asked.”
In addition to criminal charges, the jury also recommends FSU make cooperation with investigations a condition of enrollment at the school.
“While fraternities and sororities bring countless benefits to participants and the community as a whole through lifelong friendship, philanthropy, and character building, Andrew Coffey’s death should make us question whether these benefits are outweighed by the danger of an organization whose culture celebrates drinking to excess,” read the presentment.
State Attorney Jack Campbell says another grand jury will convene in January to review the circumstances surrounding Coffey’s death.
“This is not ending the criminal investigation. There is still outstanding forensic evidence that’s being reviewed and we will base all charges on the evidence we review,” says Campbell.
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