A former Louisiana State University student was found guilty Wednesday of negligent homicide in the 2017 hazing death of an 18-year-old fraternity pledge from Roswell.
Matthew Naquin, 21, is facing up to five years in prison, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 16 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Naquin, who is from Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was accused of the most serious charges of four ex-members of LSU’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity indicted in the death of Maxwell Gruver. The other three, 21-year-old Sean-Paul Gott of Layfayette, Louisiana, 19-year-old Ryan Isto of Oakville, Ontario, and 21-year-old Patrick Forde of Westwood, Massachusetts, were cooperating with prosecutors.
Gott and Isto took a plea deal last year in exchange for their testimony, and prosecutors have not decided if they will move forward with hazing charges for Forde, who also testified at Naquin’s trial, the Advocate reported.
Gruver died of alcohol poisoning in September 2017 during a hazing ritual at the now-banned Phi Delta Theta chapter’s fraternity house. He was a month into his freshman year.
The Blessed Trinity High School graduate was found unconscious on a couch. Gruver’s death was blamed on a two-hour initiation ritual called “Bible study,” in which pledges were forced to down 190-proof liquor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.
At the time of his death, Gruver had a blood alcohol level of .495% — more than six times the legal limit for drivers.
His family filed a $25 million federal lawsuit against LSU, the fraternity and several fraternity members in 2018. In response to the suit, a spokesman for the school told The AJC new policies and practices are in place within their Greek system, and LSU is supporting the family’s efforts to criminalize hazing and ensure harsher penalties for hazing in Louisiana.
Prosecutors placed the bulk of the blame for Gruver’s death on Naquin. At trial, they told the jury Naquin ripped up Gruver's bid card and made it his personal mission to keep Gruver out of the fraternity, the Advocate reported. During the ritual, when Gruver answered questions about the fraternity incorrectly, prosecutors said Naquin forced him to drink.
It took jurors about an hour to convict him on the felony negligent homicide charge, the newspaper reported. Naquin will stand trial for obstruction of justice related to the criminal investigation at another time. He is accused of deleting hundreds of files from his cellphone after a search warrant was issued.
Stephen Gruver, Maxwell’s father, addressed reporters outside the Louisiana courthouse on Wednesday after the verdict was read.
"We want this to send a message to the country that hazing should not exist," he said. "It's dangerous and we have to all work together to bring an end to hazing."
— Please return to AJC.com for updates.
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