FSU hazing case on hold pending outcome of appeal
May 23, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A circuit judge has put the Florida State University fraternity hazing case on hold, pending the outcome of an appeals court review.
In an order filed Wednesday afternoon, Judge Martin Fitzpatrick paused the countdown to a June 11 trial for Luke Kluttz, Anthony Oppenheimer and Anthony Petagine.
Fitzpatrick threw out felony charges against the three Pi Kappa Phi brothers last week. He said the state could continue with misdemeanor charges.
The State Attorney appealed to the First District Court of Appeals and requested the stay.
"The Court will toll the speedy trial period in this case for both the Felony and Misdemeanor charges until the date of receipt of a mandate, order or notice" from the appeals court, Judge Fitzpatrick wrote in Wednesday's order. He said once the appeals court rules, the State will have 90 days to bring the defendants to trial.
The State Attorney confirms the June 11 trial is off and says a decision from the appeals court could take six months to a year.
"What's most important is we get it right. The DCA is needed to bring clarity to the felony hazing statute," State Attorney Jack Campbell said. "I want to give the Coffey family justice and closure and I want to do it in following with Florida law."
May 18, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A judge has dismissed felony hazing charges against three Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers accused in Andrew Coffey's death.
In his order filed Friday afternoon, Judge Martin Fitzpatrick says the state "casts too broad of a net, and spreads causation too thin." He dismissed felony charges against Luke Kluttz, Anthony Oppenheimer and Anthony Petagine.
"The State has not pointed to any hazing activity that resulted in Mr. Coffey's death. There is no allegation that any of these Defendants forced, pressured or coerced Mr. Coffey to take any action, including the consumption of alcohol," the judge said in his ruling.
The judge refused to drop misdemeanor hazing charges though, saying the state can proceed with those.
State Attorney Jack Campbell plans to appeal the judge's ruling.
The Coffey family attorney, David Bianchi, says the judge's ruling is not a setback, but rather a chance to have an appellate court clarify Florida's felony hazing law.
"There ultimately will be a decision from the appellate court as to how judges are to interpret Florida's felony hazing law and it will be as a result of the Coffey case," Bianchi said. "So, the death of Andrew Coffey will be the case cited for years to come. It will always be known as the 'Coffey Case,' so Andrew's death will have meant something."
WCTV has reached out to attorneys for Kluttz, Oppenheimer and Petagine for comment.
"We don’t believe there is any evidence of hazing on either a misdemeanor or a felony level," Petagine's lawyer Brian Tannebaum said. 'The fact that he went to a party and drank a lot is tragic, but it is not hazing."
Petagine was president of the fraternity at the time, but was not at the party the night Coffey died. "I think the fact that Petagine was not at the party further reinforces that he did not force, coerce or pressure Andrew Coffey to drink," Tannebaum said.
Petagine, Oppenheimer and Kluttz were scheduled to go to trial in June. It's not clear yet how Friday's ruling will impact that.
The judge's ruling could also impact fellow fraternity brother Clayton Muehlstein. Muehlstein is also awaiting trial, but was not included in the motion to dismiss or the judge's order.
Andrew Coffey died of alcohol poisoning in November 2017 after an off campus fraternity party. FSU
for months as a result.