FSU fraternity members enter pleas in hazing death

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By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 16, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Five fraternity members who pleaded guilty to hazing Monday will soon be reporting to jail.

The pleas come in the death of FSU pledge Andrew Coffey.

Conner Ravelo, Coffey's big brother in the fraternity, was the first to enter a plea. He walked into court in jailhouse blues because he's already started serving a 30 day jail sentence.

He was the only fraternity member who apologized to Coffey's parents.

"I know that my words may not mean much and you may never forgive me, but they're words I need to say and words you need to hear. I'm sorry for not thinking. I'm sorry for not acting the way I was raised to act. I blindly did the same thing that I went through without thinking about the dangers," Ravelo said as he turned to face Coffey's parents sitting in the front row.

"I recognize what happened to Andrew could have happened to me or someone else and it wasn't a matter of if, but when," Ravelo said.

The Coffey's broke down as Ravelo apologized for what he did and what he didn't do the night Coffey died at an off campus fraternity party in November. Coffey's blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit.

"Everything in our lives... has changed," Sandy Coffey said as she and her husband addressed the judge. "We talk about Andrew every single day, but now we talk about what could have been and what should have been but mostly we talk about how much we miss him."

Coffey's mother called her son's death "senseless."

"Last year four young men died while pledging a fraternity. This is not a coincidence. Fraternity hazings need to stop," Sandy Coffey said.

A total of five Pi Kappa Phi brothers plead guilty Monday to misdemeanor hazing charges in Coffey's death.

Ravelo was sentenced to 30 days in jail due to his cooperation in the case.

The others Kyle Bauer, Brett Birmingham, Christopher Hamlin and John Ray will all serve 60 days in jail.

Defense attorney Fred Conrad represents Birmingham. He says he didn't want to risk going to trial.

"They could have been sentenced to up to a year in jail on the misdemeanor, and God forbid you get a jury that comes back and finds him guilty of a felony. The score sheet provided five years in state prison and I certainly didn't want to see an outstanding young man like Brett Birmingham go to prison," Conrad said.

"We give credit to these five who showed up today to plead guilty because they are guilty and they should plead guilty," Coffey family attorney David Bianchi said. "So we give them a lot of credit. We know that some of the others are trying to blame Andrew for what happened and that's sickening."

Bianchi is representing the family in a pending civil case against the fraternity brothers and Pi Kappa Phi fraternity. He cited a similar pledge death in California 18 years ago.

"It's no longer acceptable when the exact same facts are repeated year after year after year by this fraternity," Bianchi said.

Four other fraternity members are still awaiting trial. Three are set for trial June 11 and a fourth has waived his right to a speedy trial.

By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
April 16, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Five of the nine men charged in the hazing death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge have entered guilty pleas. Four remaining defendants turned down the deal and will face felony charges.

20-year-old Andrew Coffey died last November after being given an entire bottle of Wild Turkey. Nine fraternity members were charged with felony hazing. On Monday, five entered guilty pleas.

Conner Ravelo was the first to plea. He bought the bourbon using a fake ID. Ravelo is the only one to apologize in court.

“I apologize for all of this and I make a promise to you in moving forward I will be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Ravelo said.

With her husband gently rubbing her back, Andrew Coffey’s mother was near tears as she told the court about her son.

“We are haunted by the image of Andrew being left alone in a room unable to get help from his own and without a single brother coming to his aid,” Sandra Coffey said.

Three of the remaining four defendants face a June trial date. A fourth could be delayed into the fall.

The attorney handling the Coffey family’s civil suit believes the other four will try to paint Andrew as the guilty one.

“And that’s sickening. It reminds me of a sexual assault case,” Attorney David Bianchi said.

But Conner Ravelo’s attorney says FSU bears part of the blame.

“Why FSU isn’t being held accountable, I have no idea," said defense attorney Fred Conrad. “Maybe if the administration would get out of the skybox and come down to the parking lot during a football game they would realize they have a problem.”

FSU banned alcohol on campus following Coffey’s death. That ban has since been lifted.

In addition to 60 days in the county jail, each of the five will serve two years’ probation, participate in anti-hazing events, and apologize to the Coffey family.

Christopher Hamlin has asked to serve his time in the Hillsborough County Jail, Brett Birmingham is asking to serve his time in either Santa Rosa or Wakulla County.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 16, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Five Florida State University fraternity members have entered pleas in the hazing death of pledge Andrew Coffey.

11:05 a.m.

John Ray is now entering a plea to misdemeanor hazing charges in the death of his fraternity brother Andrew Coffey.

His deal is like the others - 60 days in jail and two years probation, no alcohol, publicly speak on dangers of hazing, and write a letter of apology to the Coffey family.

Ray plans to turn himself in by 6pm tonight.

Brett Birmingham has opted for the same deal.

That means if all five fraternity brothers follow the rules of their probation, adjudication will be withheld and they will avoid having a felony record.

Four other Pi Kappa Phi brothers are still facing felony hazing charges. Three of them are set for trial in June. Another has waived his right to a speedy trial.

We've reached out to Florida State University for a statement on today’s plea deals. A spokesperson for FSU says the university will not be commenting because it’s an ongoing criminal case.

10:48 a.m.

Kyle Bauer is now before the judge.

Bauer entered a guilty plea to misdemeanor hazing, he'll be sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years probation. He has to report to jail by Friday.

Among the conditions of his probation, he cannot drink alcohol, must speak about the dangers of hazing, and write an apology letter to the Coffey family.

Christopher Hamlin is entering a similar guilty plea to misdemeanor charges right now. He is hoping to serve his jail time in Hillsborough County.

The State Attorney says he would not object if Hamlin transfers his jail time to Hillsborough County.

Hamlin's attorney says his client is entering a plea because he does not want the family to have to go through a trial.

10:25 a.m.

Andrew Coffey's parents are speaking in front of the judge as five fraternity members are poised to enter pleas in his death.

Coffey's mother told the judge "Everything in our life has changed." Coffey's mother says she is haunted that Andrew died alone in "a room full or people."

The five brothers are opting to enter guilty pleas to misdemeanor hazing with 60 days in jail. Conner Ravelo will serve 30 days in jail due to his cooperation in the case.

Ravelo turned to Coffey's parents to apologize. He said "You may never forgive me... but these are words you need to hear."

9:20 a.m.

A plea hearing for two Florida State University fraternity members has been pushed back until 10 a.m.

Pi Kappa Phi fraternity members Conner Ravelo and Kyle Bauer are expected to enter pleas in the hazing death of Andrew Coffey.

Coffey's parents are also expected to make a statement in court today.

Coffey died of alcohol poisoning after an off campus party in November.

Charges are still pending against seven other fraternity members. It's not clear if any others will enter pleas today, but sources say as many as five could do so.

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