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Prosecutors drop assault charges in Penn State hazing death

BATON ROUGE, La. — A grand jury indicted four people in the death of a Louisiana State University student whose blood-alcohol content was more than six times the legal limit for driving.

The state grand jury issued the indictments Thursday, six months after 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver’s death. The freshman from Roswell, Ga., died at a hospital after Phi Delta Theta members found him lying on a couch at the fraternity house and couldn’t tell if he was breathing.

The jury indicted 20-year-old Matthew Alexander Naquin of Boerne, Texas, on a charge of felony negligent homicide, and three others on a misdemeanor charge of hazing. The felony charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

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In another hazing case, Pennsylvania prosecutors on Thursday dropped all assault charges against members of a now-closed Penn State fraternity in the death of a pledge, sparing defendants the most serious allegations any had faced.

The state attorney general’s office said it will continue to pursue involuntary manslaughter charges against five former members of Beta Theta Pi in the February 2017 death of 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza of Lebanon, N.J. But those misdemeanors do not carry the lengthy prison sentences that aggravated assault charges would have.

Local prosecutors had been handling the case, but a new county district attorney referred it to the state. The attorney general’s office informed a judge ahead of a hearing next week about the status of charges against 14 of the 26 men accused in the case.

A judge had thrown out the most serious charges September after a marathon preliminary hearing, but the county prosecutor at the time refiled them, including eight felony aggravated assault charges.

The notice of charges and amendments being filed Thursday said prosecutors are still pursuing a charges of hazing, reckless endangerment, conspiracy, and alcohol law violations. Eleven defendants are expected at the hearing next week.

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Piazza, a sophomore engineering student, attended a pledge bid acceptance night at the fraternity on Feb. 2, 2017, an event that included a gauntlet of drinking stations and a party with alcohol. Investigators said he had been given at least 18 drinks over 90 minutes.

Associated Press