Four former LSU students pleaded not guilty Friday, one to negligent homicide and the others to misdemeanor hazing, in the alcohol-related death of 18-year-old Phi Delta Theta fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver on the Baton Rouge campus last September.
State District Judge Beau Higginbotham set a Sept. 6 trial date for Sean-Paul Gott, 21, Ryan Matthew Isto, 19, and Patrick Andrew Forde, 21, on the hazing counts. Matthew Alexander Naquin, 20, who is charged with the more serious felony of negligent homicide, will have a motions hearing on that date.
Six months after his death rocked the LSU campus and spurred some state lawmakers to action, an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury that invest…
Naquin’s attorney, John McLindon, said his client is being “singled out.”
Naquin, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas; Gott, of Lafayette; and Isto, of Ontario, Canada, entered their pleas in person. Forde, of Westwood, Massachusetts, did not attend the arraignments. His attorney pleaded not guilty for him.
The four men were indicted last month by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury in the alleged hazing death of Gruver on Sept. 14.
Investigators have said Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, was targeted by senior members of Phi Delta Theta in a hazing ritual they called "Bible study" that required pledges to chug 190-proof liquor when they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity.
Gruver's blood alcohol level was 0.495 percent, or more than six times the legal limit to drive, his autopsy revealed. The coroner's office said his death was an accident but could be attributed to alcohol poisoning and aspiration, which means he suffocated on his own vomit.
Louisiana could soon be among the states with the strictest criminal penalties for hazing after the death of an LSU freshman last fall has pro…
“The problem with alcohol on campuses is bigger than just one person, it’s bigger than Matthew Naquin,” McLindon said outside Higginbotham’s courtroom. “I think he’s being singled out.”
Negligent homicide is punishable by up to five years in prison. Hazing carries up to 30 days in jail.
Isto’s attorney, Michael Fiser, said Isto pleaded not guilty because he is innocent.
“He is terribly sorry for the pain this tragedy has caused the Gruver family, and we look forward to showing Mr. Isto’s lack of involvement as the case proceeds,” Fiser said.
McLindon and Kris Perret, who represents Forde, said they look forward to plowing through the voluminous discovery material in the case and the witness statements.
Phi Delta Theta's national headquarters pulled the fraternity from LSU's campus after Gruver died. Less than a year before his death, the fraternity had been temporarily suspended for complaints about hazing and drinking.
In a recent policy change that LSU President F. King Alexander said will be enforced with zero tolerance, LSU students caught hazing will be expelled and the involved fraternities or other student organizations will be kicked off campus.
From now on, LSU students who are caught hazing will be expelled and the involved fraternities or other student organizations will be kicked o…