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In the House Criminal Justice Committee, from left, Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, Rae Ann Gruver, Stephen Gruver and District Attorney Hillar Moore III listen to testimony on HB78 which is a bill to increase criminal penalties for hazing related to the death of Max Gruver at LSU Wednesday March 21, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La.

After a tumultuous spring semester for LSU Greek Life that saw the ejection of two fraternities from campus and arrests or citations for 16 fraternity members over alleged hazing, the Legislature could soon further tighten Louisiana laws governing frats.

Under a proposal by state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, universities and Greek national organizations would be required to immediately report hazing allegations to law enforcement. House Bill 443 would strip part of the law that allows universities and Greek organizations to investigate hazing allegations for 14 days before alerting police. The law would also force universities to document in writing each step they take to respond to hazing complaints, in addition to the complaints themselves.

“Just an hour and a day or two days in these types of cases, just like any other case, makes a huge difference,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III, a proponent of the changes to the law. “And as time passes along, it negatively affects the ability to successfully and completely investigate and find evidence and talk to witnesses.”

Landry’s bill is barreling through the Legislature, which must adjourn Thursday. The bill unanimously cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate that should allow it to come up for final votes during the session's final days.

Landry also sponsored new laws last year named for Max Gruver, the LSU fraternity pledge who died in 2016 after a night of forced drinking at his fraternity house. While those laws stiffened punishments for students who haze and the national organizations meant to keep them in check, Landry’s proposal goes further.

Moore said that by the time law enforcement investigates hazing allegations, students have often already given statements to the university, their national organization and other investigators. All the while, he said, pressure builds on them to decline to cooperate.

Lack of cooperation and passage of time are among the problems Moore said his prosecutors face for the hazing cases currently before them.

And in the pending criminal case against Matthew Naquin, a fraternity brother of Gruver’s, the loss of evidence has also been another roadblock.

Naquin is set to stand trial next month on a charge of negligent homicide. The FBI unlocked his cellphone in March after a long debate over whether accessing his cellphone invaded his privacy rights. A search warrant for his phone filed last month accused Naquin of deleting hundreds of files from it.

“They want (hazing) to be reported right away so that police have the ability to investigate while evidence is still fresh,” Landry said.

Though complaints about Greek organizations at Louisiana universities are public records, university responses to those complaints often are not documented in writing. LSU, for example, documented numerous complaints about both Delta Kappa Epsilon and Pi Kappa Phi before kicking both fraternities off campus this year, but the university put little in writing about how administrators followed up on various complaints against the fraternities.

When an LSU fraternity member reported that administrators had failed to look into problems he had highlighted at Delta Kappa Epsilon, LSU hired an outside law firm to investigate his complaint. LSU said the law firm found the administrators did nothing wrong, but said the investigation produced no written report.

Landry’s bill would require more documentation.

“Some of the action the university had taken was done by phone, they weren’t documenting what they’d done,” Landry said. “It was hard to tell from a public records request whether the institutions were complying with law, it was hard to piece together everything.”


Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​