BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Two former LSU students who pleaded no contest last year to misdemeanor hazing in the 2017 alcohol-related death of a fraternity pledge were both sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail.
State District Judge Beau Higginbotham handed down the sentences to Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Ryan Matthew Isto, 20, of Butte, Montana, in connection with Max Gruver’s death. The Advocate reported each was immediately taken into custody.
Isto was the former roommate of 21-year-old Matthew Naquin, who was convicted last week of negligent homicide in 18-year-old Gruver’s death. Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, had been at LSU a month when he died of alcohol poisoning after a Phi Delta Theta hazing ritual.
Naquin, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, will be sentenced Oct. 16. He faces up to five years in prison.
Gott and Isto both testified for the prosecution at Naquin’s trial.
Isto testified he saw Naquin hand Gruver a bottle of alcohol at the hazing event and order him to drink. Isto said he saw Gott do the same to other pledges. Isto also acknowledged telling pledges to drink, but said he didn’t order Gruver to drink.
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.
Several pledges testified Naquin appeared to target Gruver that night. Trial testimony showed Naquin disliked Gruver and wanted him cut from the fraternity.
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.
The misdemeanor hazing charge to which Isto and Gott pleaded no contest carried up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $100, under the law in place at the time of the Gruver hazing. Last year, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law the Max Gruver Act and other anti-hazing bills meant to reduce hazing and increase penalties. Gruver’s parents were instrumental in the passage of the act bearing his name.
Under the Gruver Act, 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.
Another former LSU student charged with hazing, Patrick Andrew Forde, 22, of Westwood, Massachusetts, also testified as a prosecution witness at Naquin’s trial. Prosecutors haven’t decided whether to prosecute him.
Naquin also is 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.
Phi Delta Theta has been banned from LSU’s campus until at least 2033 as a result of the probe into Gruver’s death.