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Grand jury recommends criminal charges in death of FSU pledge

By Daniel Uria
Grand jury recommends criminal charges in death of FSU pledge
The Leon County grand jury recommended prosecutors pursue criminal charges in the death of 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge, Andrew Coffey, in November. Photo by Ayzmo/Wikimedia Commons

Dec. 20 (UPI) -- A grand jury in Florida called for criminal charges in the death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge in November.

The Leon County grand jury released a report Wednesday stating pledges called and texted other fraternity brothers before contacting 911 when they found Andrew Coffey, 20, unconscious on a futon at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity "Big Brother Night" reveal party on Nov. 3.

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"Our son died alone in a room full of people...a group of young people saw someone in crisis and didn't act," Coffey's mother, Sandy Coffey, wrote in a letter attached to the report.

The grand jury recommended prosecutors pursue criminal charges against members of the FSU fraternity saying the fraternity engaged in hazing and underage alcohol abuse that led to Coffey's death.

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Medical Examiner Lisa Flannagan found Coffey, a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound freshman, drank a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon and likely had a blood alcohol level of 0.558, nearly seven times the legal limit to drive, at the time of his death.

The grand jurors learned Coffey and other pledges were encouraged to drink to extreme excess, although fraternity members and pledges who spoke with investigators said the drinking at the party was voluntary.

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Jurors criticized the fraternity's "tradition" of attempting to work around hazing laws and a "culture of secrecy" including members who refused to speak to investigators.

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"A young life was senselessly extinguished," grand jurors wrote. "Aside from their behavior under the influence of alcohol, in the sobering aftermath and somber days that followed, they have repeatedly made the choice not to speak out, but rather remain loyal to a culture of secrecy that cannot be allowed to continue."

The university suspended all fraternity and sorority activity at the school indefinitely in November, as President John Thrasher sought to send a "serious message" to Greek organizations.

Grand jurors also recommended FSU refresh its training on hazing and alcohol consumption.

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