A University of Missouri student, aged 19, suffered permanent brain damage when he was forced to drink vodka at a fraternity party. He then fell on the ground unconscious and his family is now seeking damages from two other students who were allegedly involved in the hazing.
On Wednesday, the family of Daniel Santulli named Alec Wetzler as the defendant in a civil suit originally filed against 22 students and Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. The case was settled last month. The terms of the settlement have not been made public.
Santulli, an 18-year old freshman, was at a pledge event called "Pledge Father Reveal Night" last Oct at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. There, he was forced to drink a whole bottle of Tito’s vodka. Video from the fraternity house's surveillance camera captured this. Video also showed Santulli being poured beer through his throat by members of the fraternity through a tube, a funnel and while he was still part of the process of drinking the vodka.
Each fraternity had its own "family" of alcohol. Santulli was Tito's. David Bianchi (an attorney representing Santulli) said that Santulli was given a Tito's bottle as his "family bottle". He also stated that Santulli was instructed to finish the drink within two hours.
Santulli fell to his death at 10:55 in the morning. Fraternity members took him to a couch. He remained there for more than 1 1/2 hours before he was taken to a car. However, members dropped him on his head.
Santulli was not breathing when they brought him to University Hospital. According to Columbia Missourian, he had a blood alcohol content of.486,
Santulli is still blind and unable walk or talk due to brain damage. Doctors have advised his family that he will require special care for the rest his life.
Bianchi stated that although a settlement was reached on May 10 with the 22 students and fraternity, the family chose to name Wetzler as well as Gandhi after they received the complete police report and surveillance footage.
According to the Santulli family's lawsuit, Wetzler allegedly poured beer down Santulli’s throat and Gandhi allegedly left an intoxicated Santulli after briefly trying to help him.
Friday's comment from Wetzler's lawyer was not taken seriously. It is unclear whether Gandhi retained legal counsel.
"They knew that he was in distress and his lips were blue and they didn't call 911," Mary Pat Santulli, Santulli’s mother, said Thursday on ABC News' "Good Morning America".
The Boone County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged Wetzler with two misdemeanor charges of possession of alcohol and providing alcohol to minors on June 2. However, he and no other fraternity members were criminally charged for hazing.
Bianchi stated that he believed the actions of the fraternity members on Oct. 19 were in line with the legal definitions of hazing. This includes forced drinking of alcohol and "recklessly threatening" the mental or bodily health of students.
"This is textbook hazing. It is not disputable. Bianchi stated that you can be in jail for as long as one year. "And nobody has been charged, which is completely baffling. It is inexcusable that a prosecutor chooses to ignore the law and not enforce it.
Friday's comment was not received by the Boone County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Meredith Santulli is Santulli’s sister. She said on "Good Morning America" that it made her sick to see the people involved in Danny's harm walking around campus acting like nothing happened.
After the incident, the University of Missouri as well as Phi Gamma Delta International closed the chapter. The university also imposed discipline sanctions on 13 of those students who were found to be involved in the incident after an internal investigation.
After the incident, Rob Caudill, Phi Gamma Delta International Fraternity's executive director, stated that "our thoughts and prayers continue be with Danny" in a statement. "Danny shouldn't have been placed in such a circumstance."
Thirteen days prior to the fraternity event in Phi Gamma Delta, the university had placed sanctions on Phi Gamma Delta for the distribution and violation of university policies. The university also banned Phi Gamma Delta's hosting of alcohol-related events until February 1. For hazing, sanctions were also imposed on May 20,21.
Mun Choi, the university president, stated that safety is our top priority and that we must address alcohol abuse in holistic ways in order to provide education and support safer behavior.
Bianchi stated Friday that university sanctions do not work because these men don't care. You have to pursue it in a different manner.
He stated that Santulli's family just moved Daniel in, and they are now trying to care for him alone.
Santulli's mother said that her son is still unable to talk or walk.