The anti-hazing legislation, ‘Max Gruver Act’, would create harsher criminal penalties in Louisiana, and is nearing final passage at the State Capitol, following last fall’s death of an LSU freshman fraternity pledge.
Elizabeth Crisp and Natalie Anderson of The Advocate report:
Without discussion and by unanimous vote, the Senate on Monday signed off on House Bill 78, which would be known as the Max Gruver Act.
The bill must go back to the House for approval of technical changes, which is normally a quick procedural move. It would then head to Gov. John l Edwards, a Democrat who is expected to sign the measure into law.
Gruver, 18, was one month into his first year of college at LSU when police said he attended a fraternity initiation event and was forced to chug 190-proof liquor. His blood alcohol level was 0.495 when he died – more than six times the legal limit to drive.
Four former LSU students have been indicted in Gruver’s death and have pleaded not guilty – one on a charge of negligent homicide and three others with hazing.
Phi Delta Theta fraternity has been banned from LSU’s campus until at least 2033, following an investigation into the events that led to Gruver’s death.
A hazing conviction under current law carries a maximum $100 fine and 30 days behind bars.
Under Landry’s proposal, people who take part in hazing activities that result in death when the victim’s blood alcohol level is at least .30 would face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Hazing that doesn’t lead to death would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 and six months in prison.
Organizations – fraternities, sororities, associations, social clubs, athletic teams and similar groups on college or high school campuses – that knowingly allow hazing could also face fines of up to $10,000.
Landry has said her bill was prompted by Gruver’s death, which along with similar cases has helped ignite a national debate over how to prevent future hazing-linked tragedies and whether existing anti-hazing laws are stringent enough.
The proposed Max Gruver Act is one of multiple measures in this legislative session to intended to combat hazing. Gruver’s parents, RaeAnn and Stephen, have traveled from their home in Roswell, Georgia, to the Louisiana Capitol multiple times this session to support HB78, testifying in emotional hearings about the loss of their son.
“Our house used to be filled with laughing friends and now it’s filled with sadness,” RaeAnn Gruver said, choking back tears, during a House committee hearing on the bill last month. “This will save lives, it would’ve saved Max’s, and it definitely could save someone else’s life in the future.”