A grand jury on Tuesday recommended that prosecutors pursue criminal charges in the death of Florida State University fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey, who died on Nov. 3 after a Pi Kappa Phi “big brother” ritual.
Coffey, 20, passed out after drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon at the off-campus party and had to be carried by members of the fraternity, according to the grand jury finding. The next morning, he was found without a pulse by another pledge. An autopsy determined that he had a blood alcohol level of .447 — which Dr. Lisa Flannagan characterized as “abusive alcohol intake” in her testimony.
“We do see evidence that will support criminal charges and we leave the decision as to specific charging up to the State Attorney or a future Grand Jury,” the grand jury wrote. An investigation into Coffey’s death is still ongoing.
In an attachment to the report, Coffey’s parents called for more “accountability” from members of the fraternity, describing Coffey as a hard-working “friend to everyone” who planned to enlist in the Navy.
“Even as we are heartbroken, we are also troubled. Troubled that our son died alone in a room full of people,” they wrote. “Troubled that no one stood up and said ‘stop,’ ‘no,’ ‘enough.’ Troubled that a group of young people saw someone in crisis and didn’t act. And troubled that this continues to happen, again and again.”
“When young people continue to die senselessly due to indifference, reckless conduct and irresponsibilty, it is clear that change is not only necessary but crucial,” they added.
Coffey is one of several fraternity pledges who have died this year after alleged hazing rituals, leading many universities — including Florida State — to suspend Greek life and consider reforms to combat a dangerous drinking culture.
“While alcohol abuse is pervasive throughout our community, the scale on which it is embraced within the FSU chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity is alarming,” the grand jury’s presentment said. “The Grand Jury finds that while Andrew Coffey’s alcohol consumption was not physically forced, the acts that culminated in his death occurred within an environment of hazing.”
“Willingness of the pledges to engage in life-threatening behavior in no way absolves fraternity members of their criminal culpability if they did anything to incite or encourage the behavior,” the report stated.