A former LSU student accused of negligent homicide in the 2017 hazing death of fraternity pledge Max Gruver doesn't have to give prosecutors the passcode to his seized cellphone on Monday, a state appellate court said Friday.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham last month had directed Matthew Naquin to turn over his phone's passcode, and he gave the 21-year-old until Monday to do so.

Naquin's attorneys appealed the order to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge this week. They claim forcing Naquin to turn over the passcode violates his 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court froze Higginbotham's order Friday and gave both sides time — Naquin's attorneys until March 25 and prosecutors until April 5 — to file written arguments on the issue.

"They're going to stay the judge's order until they can decide the ultimate issue," said John McLindon, one of Naquin's attorneys.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Higginbotham's ruling is based on "sound law and reason" and should be upheld.

"We look forward to providing the appellate court the only sensible and logical position that the court should take, that is that in order to protect public safety law enforcement should have the right — through a lawful court order — to a limited search of the contents of a phone that may contain evidence of criminal wrongdoing," he said.

Moore added that those who use encrypted cellphones should not be beyond the reach of the law and the courts.

Higginbotham had concluded that Naquin’s privacy rights wouldn't be trampled because the search warrant is very specific and seeks only phone contents regarding the death of Gruver, an 18-year-old from Roswell, Georgia.

The judge previously signed a search warrant authorizing prosecutors to confiscate Naquin’s phone in late 2017, but they have been unable to access its contents because it is password-protected.

Naquin, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is charged with negligent homicide and is set to stand trial July 8. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted on that felony charge.

Gruver died in September 2017 following a hazing ritual that senior Phi Delta Theta members dubbed "Bible study," in which pledges were required to chug hard liquor if they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity, authorities have said.

An autopsy revealed his blood alcohol level was 0.495 percent, more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana.

Just days before Gruver's death, court records show, Naquin was warned by a local Phi Delta Theta official to tone down his interactions with pledges.

Naquin’s ex-roommate, Ryan Matthew Isto, 19, of Butte, Montana, and Sean-Paul Gott, 22, a former LSU student from Lafayette, have pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing in the case and agreed to testify at Naquin's trial.

Former LSU student Patrick Andrew Forde, 21, of Westwood, Massachusetts, also is charged with hazing and has pledged to cooperate and testify truthfully at the trial. Prosecutors have said they’ll decide later whether to prosecute him.

Phi Delta Theta has been banned from the LSU campus until at least 2033.


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.