Posted on May 21, 2018 in In The News
Brian Tannebaum In the Tallahassee Democrat: Judge dismisses felony hazing charges against fraternity members. https://on.tdo.com/2wZsCmZ Etters, Karl.
A Leon County circuit judge has dismissed felony hazing charges against four men connected to the death of Florida State fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey.
In a ruling issued Friday, Leon County Circuit Judge Martin Fitzpatrick wrote that prosecutors have generalized the actions of the four who they say were connected to Coffey’s death.
“The closest the State comes to such action is alleging that defendants created an opportunity for underage drinking and Mr. Coffey may have been encouraged to drink,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
State Attorney Jack Campbell filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal looking for clarity on Florida’s broad hazing statute.
“Obviously, we still believe that the conduct is of the nature that falls under the statute,” Campbell said in an interview. “We’re going to be filing an appeal today and hopefully the appellate court will provide some clarity on the law so we can hopefully bring this case to a jury sometime in the future. Andrew Coffey is dead and this qualifies as a felony.”
Luke Kluttz, Anthony Oppenheimer and Anthony Petagine are still charged with misdemeanor hazing. Their scheduled trials next month will likely be on hold until the appellate court makes a ruling.
Their attorneys last week argued in a lengthy hearing that Campbell has yet to show what evidence there is that directly links their clients to the acts that led to Coffey’s death.
Coffey, 20, died Nov. 3 at an off campus party put on by the now shuttered Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He died of alcohol poisoning after investigators say he was coerced to drink an entire bottle of bourbon.
Campbell, however, argued that the men were involved in a systematic coercion that comes with the indoctrination into a fraternity.
Felony hazing must be linked to the intentionally reckless act that causes bodily injury or death. Misdemeanor hazing creates the risk when injury or death could occur.
The fact that Kluttz, Petagine and Oppenheimer were on the fraternity’s executive board and had a hand in planning the party where Coffey died in some way is not enough to link them to his death, Fitzpatrick wrote.
“The State casts too broad of a net and spreads causation too thin,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “The fact that hazing may have occurred and that Andrew Coffey died does not automatically trigger the felony statute. The State has not pointed to any hazing activity that resulted in Mr. Coffey’s death”
In the Tallahassee Democrat: Judge dismisses felony hazing charges against fraternity members. https://on.tdo.com/2wZsCmZ Etters, Karl. “Attorneys ask for hazing case to be dismissed. “Tallahassee Democrat, 18 May 2018, https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/05/18/judge-dismisses-felony-hazing-charges-against-fraternity-members/624802002/ Accessed 21 May 2018.