A Leon County grand jury found there was sufficient evidence to support criminal charges in connection with the death of Florida State University fraternity pledge Andrew Coffey.
But the panel said the investigation is not yet complete and evidence is still outstanding. No charges have been filed.
“We leave the decision as to specific charging up to the State Attorney or a future grand jury,” jurors wrote in the 18-page presentment, which included a letter from Coffey’s parents.
Jurors found that members of FSU’s Pi Kappa Phi fraternity set up the off-campus party, where Coffey died, to help underage pledges get intoxicated. More than 80 people were at the party, including two strippers who were hired, according to court documents.
State Attorney Jack Campbell said there is still an inquiry into Coffey's death.
"This is not ending the criminal investigation,” Campbell said. “There is still outstanding forensic evidence that’s being reviewed and we will base all charges on the evidence we review.”
The blood alcohol level for Coffey, at 6-feet tall and about 200 pounds, during his autopsy was .447, according to Medical Examiner Lisa Flannagan's testimony. But it was likely higher — 0.558 at the time of his death.
The grand jury was highly critical of the fraternity's culture and the events that led up to and followed Coffey's death.
“In the process, a young life was senselessly extinguished,” 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.
“Actions have consequences, and it is time that they learn this," grand jurors wrote. "Their behavior during the events in question demonstrates a recklessness and lack of integrity that reflect badly on themselves, their fraternity and their university.”
Coffey, a 20-year-old from Pompano Beach, was reported unresponsive after a party at a home on Buena Vista Drive on Nov. 3.
The party was a “Big Brother Night” in which older fraternity members and pledges drink to intoxication. Only fraternity members and pledges were allowed to attend.
“Pledges were actively encouraged to drink to extreme excess,” grand jurors wrote.
Coffey consumed a large portion of a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, grand jurors wrote, to the point of unconsciousness. He was moved to a futon and last observed alive while he snored loudly and others played pool around him.
No one called for medical attention and his Big Brother, who was tasked with caring for him once intoxicated, left the house, according to court records.
Investigators interviewed 22 pledges and 16 fraternity members throughout the case. During the investigation, 19 pledges and 22 brothers refused to answer questions, according to the grand jury document. Of the fraternity’s leadership, only two spoke with investigators. Seven refused.
Grand jurors commented on the secrecy surrounding the investigation of fraternity members saying there was a high level of “conspiracy” and “obstructionism.”
“Their lack of accountability was illustrated by the lack of substance in their testimony, their demeanor while testifying and the overall glib attitude of Andrew Coffey’s so-called brothers toward this very serious matter,” jurors wrote.
When Coffey was found unresponsive, according to court records, fellow pledges called five fraternity members before calling 911 resulting in an 11-minute delay before medical help arrived.
“While this time would not have saved Coffey, it reveals much about the culture within this fraternity,” jurors wrote.
Coffey’s death sparked huge changes on FSU’s campus. President John Thrasher and Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht testified before the grand jury.
Thrasher suspended all Greek activity at FSU and issued a campus-wide alcohol ban at student organization events saying there was a “serious problem” and has pushed for a change in the culture.
Thrasher, in a statement Tuesday night, condemned the lack of cooperation with the investigation by fraternity members and the university is committed to its pledge to make changes.
"Let me make this very clear: As I’ve said before, Florida State University does not tolerate hazing," he said. "We continue to mourn Andrew’s loss, and we grieve with his family and friends. Now, our grief is compounded by frustration with the lack of information and cooperation by many of the individuals who may have been present during the final hours of Andrew’s life. Nonetheless, we commend the work of law enforcement and await the findings of the criminal investigation."
Pi Kappa Phi’s national office in Charlotte shuttered the fraternity. The on-campus sanctions will remain in place when students return Jan. 8.
Grand jurors also made recommendations to FSU to help change the culture among student organizations.
Among the recommendations were refresher training on hazing and alcohol consumption before fraternity and sorority activities return to campus; a committee of law enforcement, students, administrators to increase awareness of alcohol and binge-drinking; providing university police and administrators access to any residence, even if privately-owned, used by campus organizations and community scorecards detailing conduct, philanthropy, average GPA and sanctions.
Grand jurors said the culture surrounding Coffey’s death had an air of hazing. Although he was not forced to drink, they wrote, the level of alcohol abuse “embraced within the FSU chapter of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity is alarming."
Coffey’s mother, Sandy Coffey, wrote a letter lauding the work of investigators who quickly brought the case before a grand jury.
She called her son’s death senseless and said the creed of the fraternity he was trying to join – focusing on responsibility as citizens –was not upheld.
“Even as we are heartbroken, we are also troubled,” she wrote on behalf of the family. “Troubled our son died alone in a room full of people. 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.”
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