Former LSU student gets 5 years in pledge’s hazing death

A former LSU student has been sentenced to five years in prison, but a judge suspended all but 2½ years in connection with the 2017 alcohol-related hazing death of an 18-year-old fraternity pledge

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A former LSU student was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison, but a judge suspended all but 2½ years of the term in the 2017 alcohol-related hazing death of 18-year-old fraternity pledge Max Gruver.

Matthew Naquin, an ex-Phi Delta Theta member, also was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service and must pay a $1,000 fine, The Advocate reported.

Just days after Naquin was found guilty, two other former LSU students and ex-Phi Delta Theta members who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing and testified at Naquin's trial were sentenced to 30 days in jail. Those jail terms for Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette, and Naquin's former LSU roommate, Ryan Isto, 20, of Butte, Montana, were the maximum allowed under the law at the time of Gruver's death.

Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, near Atlanta had been at LSU a month when he died of alcohol poisoning in what authorities have described as a hazing ritual at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. He and other pledges were told to chug 190-proof liquor the night of Sept. 13, 2017, if they incorrectly answered questions about the fraternity or were unable to recite the Greek alphabet.

Gruver died the following morning. His blood-alcohol level was 0.495%, which is more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. An autopsy also detected THC, the chemical found in marijuana, in Gruver's system.

Another former LSU student charged with hazing, Patrick Forde, 22, of Westwood, Massachusetts, also testified as a prosecution witness. Prosecutors said they’ll decide later whether to prosecute him. His next court date is Dec. 5.

Naquin has also been 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. He has not been tried on that charge.

Last year, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law the Max Gruver Act and other anti-hazing bills meant to curb hazing and increase penalties. Gruver’s parents were instrumental in the passage of the act bearing his name.

Under the law, people who participate in hazing activities that result in death when the victim's blood alcohol level is at least 0.30% would face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Hazing that doesn't lead to death would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 and six months in prison. Organizations — fraternities, sororities, associations, social clubs, athletic teams and similar groups on college or high school campuses — that knowingly allow hazing could also face fines of up to $10,000.

Phi Delta Theta has been banned from LSU's campus until at least 2033 amid the probe into events leading to Gruver's death.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com