Appeals court restores felony charges in FSU hazing death

Posted at 2:40 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-02 14:41:37-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- An appeals court restored felony hazing charges Thursday against three former Florida State University students charged in the case of a pledge who died of alcohol poisoning.

The First District Court of Appeal issued the 2-1 ruling more than a year after a lower court dropped the felony charges and instead said prosecutors could move forward with misdemeanor charges against Luke Kluttz, Anthony Oppenheimer and Anthony Petagine.

Petagine was the president of the Florida State chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and the other two were members of its executive council when 20-year-old pledge Andrew Coffey died after being found unresponsive at a November 2017 party.

An autopsy showed Coffey's blood alcohol level was .447. His death led to the temporary suspension of all FSU fraternities and sororities. The Legislature reacted to the case by passing a bill last year to strengthen the state's anti-hazing laws. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it.

Five others charged in the case accepted a deal an pleaded guilty in 2018 to misdemeanor hazing charges. Four were sentenced to 60 days in jail and the fifth was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Patagine, Kluttz and Oppenheimer face up to five years in prison on the felony hazing charge.

"Mr. Petagine was explicitly trained and instructed on the dangers of binge drinking in this environment, and had actual knowledge that previous Big Brother parties had led to extreme intoxication," the court wrote in its opinion."Mr. Petagine was present for a meeting the week of the Big Brother party where the danger of Pledges becoming intoxicated was discussed, and he encouraged the event to take place."

Coffey was given a bottle of bourbon and was told he had to finish it.

"Many Pledges drank to the point of intoxication, including vomiting, blacking out, and sadly, the death of the victim," the court wrote.

The case now goes back to the trial court.