Charlotte man ‘not involved’ in drinking death of LSU fraternity pledge, lawyer says

Charlotte man ‘not involved’ in drinking death of LSU fraternity pledge, lawyer says
Hall (Credit: Photo provided to CBS courtesy of WAFB)
Hall (Credit: Photo provided to CBS courtesy of WAFB)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - A Charlotte man who was among 10 people charged Wednesday in the drinking death during hazing of a Louisiana State University fraternity pledge had nothing to do with the incident and is "extremely upset" over what happened to his friend, his lawyer said Thursday.

Zachary Hall was "mostly asleep" during the hazing, Hall's attorney, David Bourland of Baton Rouge, La., told the Observer. "He was not involved," Bourland said.

Hall is a junior "doing very well" academically at LSU, Bourland said, while declining to release more information about Hall, including his major. "He is a very nice young man."

Bourland said he plans to meet with the assistant prosecutor-in-charge next week to inform him that Hall should not have been charged.

"It's baffling," Bourland said of police arresting Hall. He said only two or three of those arrested were involved in the Sept. 14 hazing death of Phi Delta Theta pledge Maxwell Gruver, an 18-year-old freshman from Roswell, Ga.

Gruver's blood-alcohol content was more than six times the legal limit for driving, officials said, according to the Associated Press.

Hall, 21, and the other suspects, ages 18 to 21, turned themselves in to LSU police on Wednesday on misdemeanor hazing charges, media outlets reported. All were associated with Phi Delta Theta, whose national office closed the chapter.

Hall's parents have not replied to phone messages from the Observer.

On Wednesday, Bourland also told reporters that Hall didn't provide anyone with alcohol the night Gruver died and remains in a "deep depression" over his friend's death, "but my client did not violate any law or code of conduct at LSU," the Associated Press reported. "He did not do anything that could have contributed to this unfortunate, tragic accident."

The AP reported these other details about the case:

One of the suspects, Matthew Alexander Naquin, 19, of Boerne, Texas, also faces a felony negligent homicide charge. Witnesses said Naquin singled out Gruver during a hazing ritual involving 18 to 20 pledges the night before he died, forcing him to drink more than other pledges, according to a police report released Wednesday.

Witnesses told police that other pledges were made to drink that night, but Naquin "targeted" Gruver because he was frequently late for events. Naquin apparently didn't like Gruver and "forced" him to drink because he was having trouble reciting the Greek alphabet during "Bible Study," a ritual testing their fraternity knowledge, they said.

One pledge said Gruver was "made to" take at least 10-12 "pulls" of 190-proof Diesel, while other pledges had to drink less of the hard liquor, according to the report.

One fraternity member said he told Naquin and another member to "cut it out" because it was "getting out of hand." Another said he warned Naquin and the other member to "slow it down" several times, to no avail.

John McLindon, a lawyer for Naquin, declined to comment on these charges "out of respect for (Gruver's) family."

"Let's just wait until the evidence comes in," he told the AP.

Gruver died at a Baton Rouge hospital after fraternity members found him lying on a couch at the fraternity house around 9 a.m. that Thursday and couldn't tell if he was breathing, police said. Several fraternity members said they had checked on Gruver "throughout the night," police said.

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark ruled the death an accident, concluding that Gruver died of acute alcohol intoxication, with aspiration: He had inhaled vomit and other fluid into his lungs, the AP reported.