Frat pledge’s alcohol death leads to hazing charges for 9
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Nine Florida State University fraternity members were charged with hazing Wednesday in the death of a 20-year-old pledge who authorities say drank a lethal amount of bourbon and malt liquor at an off-campus party overflowing with alcohol and strippers.
More details from the party were released as nine members of the now-closed Pi Kappa Phi FSU chapter face felony hazing charges in the death of Andrew Coffey. He was found unresponsive and died of alcohol poisoning Nov. 3, following the party the night before.
The state medical examiner said Coffey had a blood alcohol level of .447 at the time of the autopsy.
Investigators, who ultimately took the case to a grand jury, said in the report that even though two fraternity members remained sober to monitor the party, no one monitored the amount of alcohol anyone was consuming or stopped those underage from drinking. Investigators added this created “an environment and expectation of drinking in excess.”
The nine members charged with “College Hazing-Cause Injury or Death” - a third-degree felony - are Luke E. Kluttz and Clayton M. Muehlstein, both 22; Brett A. Birmingham and Anthony Petagine, both 20; and Conner R. Ravelo, Christopher M. Hamlin, Anthony Oppenheimer, John B. “Jack” Ray and Kyle J. Bauer, all 21.
The charge is punishable up to five years in prison. All nine turned themselves in on Wednesday and posted bail before being released according to court records.
Ravelo was Coffey’s “big brother” in the fraternity. The other eight are members of the fraternity’s executive council, which organized the party.
Three days after Coffey’s death, Florida State suspended its fraternities and sororities with no timetable on when they would be reinstated. Pi Kappa Phi’s national office has closed the FSU chapter.
Florida State University President John Thrasher said in a statement that “these arrests are the first step in seeking justice for Andrew and his loved ones, and they will inform us on where we need to place our focus as we proceed. ... We hope all members and alumni of our Greek organizations are paying attention.”
State attorney Jack Campbell said he has been in contact with the Coffey family about the charges.
“The circumstances are unique. There have not been many felony hazing cases brought forth in Florida,” he said. “There was criminal conduct and we wanted to make the best decision on what to pursue.”
The fraternity’s “Big Brother Night” party was held at an off-campus home to skirt university and national chapter policies that prohibit underage drinking. Those who attended used a ride-sharing service so no one would drive while intoxicated.
The party introduced pledges to their big brothers and included drinking large amounts of liquor straight from the bottle. Ravelo, who was 20 at the time of the party, admitted to investigators that he used another person’s identification card to purchase alcohol for the party, including a fifth (750 ml) of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon - which was Coffey’s “family bottle” - and two bottles of a malt beverage.
Ravelo, who was interviewed by Tallahassee Police investigators the day Coffey died, said that Coffey consumed the contents of the bottles until he passed out on a futon outside the house. He was taken into the living room and laid on a couch, where he was described as “snoring loudly” while others played pool.
Ravelo returned home after placing Coffey on the couch. A fellow pledge tried to awaken Coffey the next morning and found he had no pulse. Phone records show the pledge called and texted five fraternity members before calling 911.
Tallahassee police late Tuesday night released the names of the nine being charged, which took the state attorney’s office and defense attorneys by surprise.
Don Pumphrey, who represents Klutzz, said he was caught off guard by the release, but the state attorney tried to keep all parties up to date about the process.