PULLMAN, Wash. — The Whitman County prosecutor has filed criminal charges against 15 current or former members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Washington State University following the death of a student from alcohol poisoning.
The charges filed Wednesday are related to the death of 19-year-old WSU freshman Samuel Martinez of Bellevue, Washington.
Martinez died of acute alcohol intoxication on Nov. 12, 2019, after attending a fraternity event. The Whitman County Coroner ruled that the death was accidental.
The men are charged with supplying liquor to one or more pledges at the fraternity event that was part of an initiation process, Prosecuting Attorney Denis P. Tracy said. Furnishing liquor to minors is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
In 2020, Martinez’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity which he was pledging to join.
The men were not identified by the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office, but Becky Roe, Martinez’s lawyer, said a civil trial was set for March 2022.
“While the charges may lead to some level of accountability, this is not justice. It does not bring us closure,” Martinez’s family said in a statement. “We are deeply disappointed that no one will face a charge of hazing in this case.”
“Universities and the national fraternity corporations that promote and profit from fraternities must finally be held to account for failing the young men in their care and the families who entrust their sons to them,” the family said.
Fraternities have been under heightened scrutiny in recent years as more stories of alcohol-related injuries and hazing-related deaths have emerged.
Adam Oakes, a 19-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student, died of alcohol poisoning in February after a Delta Chi fraternity party, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported. His family alleges that his death was due to hazing, according to NBC Washington. He passed out after drinking, and when friends found him facedown on the couch, half his face was purple, his cousin said.
No charges have been filed in connection with his death.
And in April, eight people were charged in connection with the death of Stone Foltz, the Ohio college student who died earlier this year after an alleged hazing incident at Bowling Green State University.
A grand jury indictment charged six men with manslaughter and two men with hazing, among other charges, after Foltz died from alcohol poisoning following an alleged Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity event on March 4, according to Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson.
Foltz’s roommates found him unresponsive at their apartment and he died at a hospital three days later. Foltz’s blood alcohol level was .35, more than four times the legal limit, Dobson said.
Pi Kappa Alpha’s chapter was expelled from Bowling Green State University in April, and the university said in a statement that it would never be recognized on campus again.