Jury finds former student guilty in pledge’s death

BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana jury on Wednesday convicted a former Louisiana State University student of negligent homicide in a fraternity pledge’s drinking death during a hazing nearly two years ago.

The six jurors took less than an hour to convict Matthew Naquin, 21, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, in the death of Max Gruver, 18, of Roswell, Georgia, The Advocate reported.

Naquin faces a sentence ranging from probation up to five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 16.

During testimony Wednesday, a toxicologist testified that Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, was a “dead man walking” after chugging liquor during a Phi Delta Theta hazing event, news outlets reported. He had a blood-alcohol level of more than six times the legal driving limit when he died in 2017.

Prosecutors said Naquin was primarily responsible for Gruver’s death, but while testifying for the defence Gruver’s former LSU roommate said Tuesday that Gruver was a frequent bar patron and missed classes throughout his brief time at LSU. Nonetheless, James Patrick Canter, who pledged Phi Delta Theta with Gruver, also said he could tell Gruver “had not had much experience with drinking.”

Gruver had been at LSU a month when he died of alcohol poisoning in what authorities have described as a hazing ritual — dubbed “Bible Study” — at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house.

Gruver and other 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, witnesses testified.

Gruver died the following morning. His blood-alcohol level was 0.495%, 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, a coroner said.

Trial testimony and court documents indicate that just two days before Gruver died, other fraternity members warned Naquin to tone down his interactions with pledges, which they said were extreme and dangerous.

Naquin also is charged with obstruction of justice. Authorities say he deleted hundreds of files from his phone during the criminal investigation and after a search warrant had been issued for the phone. That case is pending.

Phi Delta Theta has been banned from the LSU campus until at least 2033.

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