A former LSU student charged with negligent homicide in the Sept. 14 alcohol-related hazing death of freshman fraternity pledge Max Gruver was told just days before the fatal incident to tone down his interaction with pledges, a recent court filing shows.
Matthew Alexander Naquin, 20, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was a student and Phi Delta Theta member at the time.
"At a Chapter meeting on September 11, 2017, Matthew Naquin was warned by other members of the fraternity that his ongoing actions with the pledges were extreme and dangerous," East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Morgan Johnson wrote in the court filing in Naquin's case.
The prosecutor added that the fraternity's pledge educator specifically addressed Naquin about his conduct with pledges.
"These warnings by his fraternity members were tantamount to knowledge on the part of the defendant that his ongoing actions with the pledges were gross deviations below the standard of care expected to be maintained by a reasonably careful man under like circumstances," she wrote.
Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver said Friday they were "deeply saddened and distraught" to learn that Naquin may have been warned by his fellow fraternity members about his hazing of their son's pledge class.
"A fraternity is supposed to take care of its brothers. It is inconceivable to us that Max's brothers may have knowingly put him in direct, foreseeable, and ultimately fatal danger," the Gruvers said in a statement. "Words cannot describe the hurt this brings to our already devastated family."
Investigators have said senior Phi Delta Theta members targeted Gruver in a hazing ritual they called "Bible study," in which pledges were required to chug 190-proof liquor when they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity.
"Hazing is not an accident; it is reckless and fatal," the Gruvers said Friday.
The prosecutor's filing in Naquin's case is titled a "notice of intent to introduce other crimes evidence." It says multiple witnesses reported that Naquin was a central figure in the fatal hazing event.
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Naquin's attorney, John McLindon, said he believes the notice is "defective."
"It does not give us sufficient information regarding what these other acts were," McLindon said. "We will be filing a brief raising this issue."
In addition to Naquin's felony charge, three other former LSU students were charged by a grand jury in March with misdemeanor hazing in Gruver's death. They are Sean-Paul Gott, 21, of Lafayette; Patrick Andrew Forde, 21, of Westwood, Massachusetts; and Ryan Matthew Isto, 19, of Ontario, Canada.
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The East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury did not charge the fraternity, which still could face a possible lawsuit by the Gruver family.
Johnson also has filed notices of her intent to introduce other crimes evidence against Gott and Forde. Those notices allege that both men "knowingly and intentionally hazed a student or students" on Sept. 13, which is when the hazing of Gruver allegedly began.
State District Judge Beau Higginbotham has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 13 on the notices.
LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said Friday the university had no comment on the court filings.
The notice filed in Forde's case says the Sept. 13 hazing event was originally supposed to take place at his apartment, "but ultimately plans changed and the location was changed to the fraternity house" on Dalrymple Drive.
Forde had hosted hazing events at his apartment a week before Gruver's death, the notice states.
Forde's attorney, Kris Perret, said Forde was not an LSU student or Phi Delta Theta member at the time of Gruver's death. Forde was a former member of the fraternity.
"At no time relevant to this case did Patrick Forde have any authority or control over the actions of Max Gruver or any other members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity," Perret said. "Patrick Forde had no ability to make anyone do anything, or in fact, to stop any member of the fraternity from doing anything."
The notice Johnson filed in Gott's case says Gott coordinated a hazing event at the fraternity house a week before Gruver died by sending out a GroupMe message to the incoming members. Gott purchased alcohol for them to consume, the court filing claims.
"As a result of the consumption of alcohol at the Fraternity House on September 6, 2017, one incoming member became ill and vomited," the notice states.
Gott's attorney, Katherine Guillot, could not be reached for comment.
A national Phi Delta Theta spokesman reiterated Friday that the membership status of all Phi Delta Theta members involved in the hazing incident was immediately terminated.
"Our investigation indicated that several members including Naquin were involved in the hazing incident involving Max Gruver, which is completely inconsistent with the standards and values of Phi Delta Theta," said Sean Wagner, chief operating officer of Phi Delta Theta.
Gott, Forde and Isto are set for trial Sept. 6. Naquin, who faces up to five years in prison if convicted of negligent homicide, does not have a trial date.
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An autopsy showed Gruver's blood alcohol level was 0.495 percent, or more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. Coroner's officials said his death was an accident but could be attributed to alcohol poisoning and also aspiration, meaning he suffocated on his own vomit.
Phi Delta Theta's national office pulled the fraternity from LSU's campus after the death of Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia. Less than a year before he died, the fraternity had been temporarily suspended for complaints about drinking and hazing.
Phi Delta Theta has been banned from the LSU campus until at least 2033.