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Fifteen Washington State University fraternity members charged in 2019 alcohol death of pledge

Outrage as 15 Washington State University frat members are charged only with ‘furnishing alcohol to minors’ in hazing death of pledge, 19, who was ‘forced to drink gallon of booze’

  • Sam Martinez, 19, died from alcohol poisoning in November 2019 at Washington State University’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter  
  • Fifteen of his fraternity brothers were charged on Wednesday with furnishing alcohol to minors
  • The Pullman Police Department chief had also recommended filing hazing charges, but the statute of limitations had already passed
  • Martinez’ family called the lack of more serious charges filed against the frat members an injustice 

Fifteen fraternity brothers at Washington State University have been charged over the 2019 death of a pledge who was allegedly forced to drink an entire gallon of alcohol

The Whitman County prosecutor’s office filed the charges for ‘furnishing alcohol to minors’ against the 15 current and former members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity on Wednesday – nearly two years after 19-year-old Sam Martinez was found dead of alcohol poisoning after a pledge event.    

Martinez’s family immediately condemned the news after spending months hoping that more serious charges such as hazing and manslaughter would be brought against the men they believe are responsible for his death.  

None of the men charged have been named publicly.  

Sam Martinez, 19, died of alcohol poisoning after a pledge event at Washington State University’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter in 2019. Fifteen members of the fraternity were charged in connection with his death on Wednesday

 ‘That is insulting compared to the devastating consequences of their actions, which directly led to Sam’s death, and the loss we are living with for the rest of our lives,’ Martinez’s family said in a statement obtained by CBS News

‘This is not justice. It does not bring us closure. We are deeply disappointed that no one will face a charge of hazing in this case.’ 

While police had recommended filing hazing charges in February, the one-year statute of limitations for the crime had already passed, according to KIRO-TV

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins told the news outlet that the charges, filed nearly two years after Martinez’s death, were the result of staffing shortages within the department as well as the challenges presented by interviewing so many people, many of whom do not live in college town anymore.

The Alpha Tau Omega house threw a 'Big-Little' party the night of Martinez's death, with each pledge being given 'a half gallon bottle of hard alcohol' to drink, court papers allege

The Alpha Tau Omega house threw a ‘Big-Little’ party the night of Martinez’s death, with each pledge being given ‘a half gallon bottle of hard alcohol’ to drink, court papers allege

The 15 fraternity members were charged with only furnishing alcohol to a minor, a mere slap on the wrist according to Martinez's family, who were pushing for more serious charges in their son's death

The 15 fraternity members were charged with only furnishing alcohol to a minor, a mere slap on the wrist according to Martinez’s family, who were pushing for more serious charges in their son’s death

‘The logistics of trying to set up in-person interviews with all the witnesses — many who were not in Pullman when we were trying to interview them — really added to the timeline of completing this investigation,’ Chief Jenkins revealed to CBS affiliate KREM

Martinez’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the university last year, which revealed that fraternity pledges were given ‘a half gallon bottle of hard alcohol’ each at a ‘Big-Little’ event at the frat house.

Pledges were ‘instructed to consume the family’s alcoholic ‘drink’ before the end of the evening,’ according to CBS.

The lawsuit also revealed that Martinez had lost consciousness by 10.30pm, when members of the fraternity moved him to the basement before positioning him on his side.

According to the lawsuit, it wasn’t until the morning after when ’emergency personnel were finally summoned but were unable to revive Sam as a result of the delay. Sam was pronounced dead at the scene,’ the lawsuit alleges.

An autopsy found Martinez had a blood alcohol level of 0.372. 

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