PULLMAN, Wash. — Criminal charges have been filed against 15 members and former members of a Washington State University fraternity in connection with the death of a pledge.
Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy announced Wednesday that the 15 members of the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity are each charged with supplying liquor to one or more pledges at a fraternity event that was part of an initiation process.
The charges relate to an investigation by the Pullman Police Department into the death of Sam Martinez, who officials say died from alcohol poisoning on Nov. 12, 2019, after the frat event.
The Whitman County Coroner’s Office ruled the 19-year-old’s death an accident, The Associated Press and USA Today report.
Specifically, the defendants are being charged with furnishing liquor to minors. It’s a gross misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to the prosecutor’s office.
The defendants are set to appear in the Whitman County District Court.
Martinez’s family released a statement reacting to the charges, which was obtained by KREM. They said while charges may lead to some level of accountability, it’s “not justice” and does not bring them closure.
“We are deeply disappointed that no one will face a charge of hazing in this case because the Pullman Police Department allowed the statute of limitations for that charge to expire. That’s despite the fact that Pullman police found substantial evidence of hazing that would have supported hazing charges,” the family wrote.
In addition to these charges, the Martinez family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and the fraternity, according to reports.