A former LSU student and ex-Phi Delta Theta member who gave prosecutors their “first real glimpse” into what happened the night pledge Max Gruver died in an alcohol-related hazing ritual no longer faces a misdemeanor charge in the case, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Tuesday.
Patrick Forde was one of four ex-LSU students and former Phi Delta Theta members indicted on charges stemming from Gruver’s 2017 death.
Forde, 22, of Westwood, Massachusetts, testified this past summer at the negligent homicide trial of Matthew Naquin that he saw an obnoxiously loud Naquin hand Gruver a bottle of 190-proof liquor and order him to chug from it the night the 18-year-old pledge later died of alcohol poisoning at the fraternity house.
Forde, however, said Naquin wasn’t the only Phi Delta Theta member who ordered pledges to drink alcohol the ill-fated night of Sept. 13, 2017.
Naquin, 21, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was convicted in July and sentenced last month to five years in prison, with two and a half years of the time suspended. He also was put on probation for three years, fined $1,000 and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Moore said the hazing charge against Forde was dropped Tuesday mainly because of his early cooperation and truthful testimony at Naquin’s trial.
“Forde was the first person who was arrested to cooperate and meet with our office without any promises being made to him,” the district attorney said. “He met with our office when we asked and gave us our first real glimpse as to what actually occurred on the night of Max’s death. Based on his cooperation others followed.”
Forde did not ask pledges to drink the night Gruver died, Moore said, and Forde was upstairs at the fraternity house for only 20 minutes of the two-hour hazing event on that floor.
Moore said he hopes that others who find themselves in Forde’s situation “will come forward early to tell the truth about the very secretive hazing culture that often times causes injury and death.”
Forde’s attorney, Kris Perret, said the Forde family is very thankful that the District Attorney’s Office decided to dismiss the hazing charge.
“Patrick Forde and his family have been and continue to be sympathetic to all parties who have suffered in any way from this tragedy,” Perret added.
Forde faced up to 30 days in jail on the hazing charge, the maximum allowed under Louisiana law at the time of Gruver’s death. The charge was dismissed Monday.
Naquin, a former LSU student and ex-Phi Delta Theta member, is free on bail while he appeals his conviction. He's also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting hundreds of files from his phone during the criminal investigation and after a search warrant had been issued for the phone.
Because negligent homicide is not considered a crime of violence in Louisiana, Naquin will be eligible to seek parole after serving 25% — or 7½ months — of his 30-month prison term. But he could end up serving even less time than that if he completes certain classes and programs in prison.
Two other ex-LSU students and former Phi Delta Theta members, Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette, and Ryan Isto, 20, of Butte, Montana, pleaded no contest to hazing last year and were sentenced in July to 30 days in jail.
Isto, who was Naquin's roommate at LSU, and Gott also testified for the prosecution at Naquin's trial.
Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, had been at LSU only a month when he died of alcohol poisoning and aspiration in what authorities have described as a hazing ritual — dubbed "Bible study" — at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. Gruver and other Phi Delta Theta pledges were told to chug 190-proof liquor the night of Sept. 13, 2017, if they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity or could not recite the Greek alphabet.
Forde was once a Phi Delta Theta member but was not enrolled at LSU when Gruver died and had no formal affiliation with the fraternity.
Phi Delta Theta has been banned from the LSU campus until at least 2033 as a result of the investigation into the events leading to Gruver's death.