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2 plead guilty in hazing investigation linked to Ohio University student’s death

(WTAP)
Published: Nov. 12, 2018 at 5:38 PM EST|Updated: Aug. 26, 2020 at 3:19 PM EDT
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UPDATE: 8/26/20 3:15 P.M.

Nearly two years after the hazing death of 18-year-old Ohio University student Collin Wiant, the last of seven people charged in the case pleaded guilty Wednesday in Athens County Common Pleas Court.

Joshua Thomas Androsac, 21, of Lewis Center, Ohio, pleaded guilty to permitting drugs abuse, two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants and trafficking in cocaine, all felony charges. He also pleaded guilty to hazing and negligent homicide, both misdemeanor charges.

A judge sentenced Androsac to 70 days in jail for the misdemeanors and ordered the remaining charges will be held in abeyance pending completion of the prosecuting attorney’s Athens County Empowerment program.

Corbin Michael Gustafson, 23, of Furlong, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of complicity to permitting drug Abuse, and a judge ordered the plea held in abeyance pending completion the ACE program.

Athens authorities began investigating the Sigma Pi fraternity after Wiant’s death in Nov. 2018. First responders found him unresponsive at the fraternity’s house on Mill Street, a coroner said he died of asphyxiation after ingesting nitrous oxide.

“The fraternity participated in cyclical hazing,” Prosecuting Attorney Keller J. Blackburn said. “Each class was hazed as a part of being initiated into the fraternity, and then they awaited the opportunity to inflict the same or worse hazing two years later upon new pledges.”

Blackburn said he has been working with the Wiant family and multiple state lawmakers to upgrade Ohio’s laws on hazing.

“The culture of silence and presumed consent with hazing must be stopped and legislative changes are necessary,” he said.

Hazing is currently a fourth degree misdemeanor, and Blackburn said the proposed “Collin’s Law” would make it a felony. It also would make “the act of not reporting known hazing activities a prosecutable crime,” he said.

Following is a list of others who have been convicted or pleaded guilty and been sentenced in the investigation.

Zachary Herskovitz: hazing, fourth-degree misdemeanor; and permitting drug abuse, fifth-degree felony; ordered to complete the ACE program and guilty plea held in abeyance pending completion of the program for the felony charge.

Dominic A. Figliola, 21, of Athens, Ohio: hazing, fourth-degree misdemeanor; permitting drug abuse, fifth-degree felony; aggravated possession of drugs, fourth-degree; felony; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, unclassified misdemeanor, which the court ordered held in abeyance pending completion of the ACE program. He was also placed on probation for one year for the hazing conviction.

Cullen Willi McLaughlin, 21, of Northfield, Ohio: two counts of possession of LSD, fifth-degree felonies, which the court ordered held in abeyance pending completion of the ACE program.

Saxon Angell-Perez; hazing, fourth-degree misdemeanor; permitting drug abuse, fifth-degree felony; and possession of cocaine, fifth-degree felony, which the court ordered held in abeyance pending completion of the ACE program. He was also placed on probation for one year for the hazing conviction.

Elijah Robert Wahib, 22, Westlake, Ohio: two counts of obstructing justice, fifth-degree felonies; permitting drug abuse, fifth-degree felony; and two counts of hazing, fourth-degree misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 31 days in jail for the hazing charges and ordered to complete the ACE program. A judge held his guilty plea in abeyance pending completion of the ACE program for the felony charges.

UPDATE: 2/27/20 5 P.M.

Three people were convicted Thursday in Athens County of charges arising after the November 2018 hazing death of an Ohio University student.

Dominic A. Figliola, 21, of Athens was convicted of hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and placed on probation for one year. Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Lang suspended charges of permitting drug Abuse, aggravated possession of drugs and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws pending completion of a rehabilitation program for those with no prior felony record who have been charged with low-level offenses.

Cullen W. McLaughlin, 21, of Northfield, Ohio, was found guilty of two counts of possession of LSD, a fifth-degree felony. Judge George McCarthy ordered him to complete the same rehabilitation program as Figliola.

Zachary Herskovitz, 22, of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, was found guilty of hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, placed on probation for a year and fined $250.

Herskovitz also pleaded guilty to permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony, but McCarthy suspended that plea to allow him to complete the same rehabilitation program as Figliola and McLaughlin.

All three defendants were among nine people indicted in an investigating that stemmed from the death of Collin L. Wiant, 18, at a house on Mill Street in Athens where multiple members of the Sigma Pi fraternity lived.

A toxicology report determined that Wiant died of asphyxiation caused by nitrous-oxide ingestion.

Sigma Pi was expelled from campus by the university administration following Wiant's death.

In a news release, Prosecuting Attorney Keller Blackburn’s office said Figliola and McLaughlin both agreed to testify against the other defendants in the case.

“Dominic Figliola and Cullen McLaughlin were part of a cycle of hazing that has existed within the Ohio University Sigma Pi fraternity for years," Blackburn said. "Each class, after being hazed, waited until their turn to inflict the same or worse on the next class. Hopefully, these cases and legislative changes, can end this practice that exists in too many organizations across this country.”


UPDATE: 11/19/19 1:30 P.M.

An investigation into the death of an 18-year-old Ohio University student more than a year ago has resulted in nine people being indicted on numerous charges, including involuntary manslaughter, hazing, and drug and alcohol-related crimes.

Authorities began their investigation after the Nov. 12, 2018, death of Collin L. Wiant of Dublin, Ohio, at 45 Mill St. in Athens. A toxicology report determined that he died of asphyxiation caused by nitrous-oxide ingestion.

At the time of his death, Wiant was a pledge of the Epsilon Chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity at the university.

In a news release, Prosecuting Attorney Keller Blackburn’s office said multiple members of the fraternity lived at the home, which was also used for fraternity activities.

Those indicted and the charges they face include:

- Joshua Thomas Androsac, 20, of Lewis Center, Ohio – permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; involuntary manslaughter, a first degree felony; two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants, fifth-degree felonies; and trafficking in cocaine, a fifth-degree felony

- Saxon Angell-Perez, of Columbus, Ohio – permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; and trafficking in cocaine, a fifth-degree felony; appeared before Judge Patrick J. Lang on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

- Dominic A. Figliola, of Athens, Ohio - permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; aggravated trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unclassified misdemeanor; appeared before Judge Patrick J. Lang on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled jury trial for Jan. 30.

- Corbin Michael Gustafson, 22 – reckless homicide, a third-degree felony; scheduled to appears in Common Pleas Court on Friday.

- Zachary Herskovitz, 22, of Coraopolis, Penn. - permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; and hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; appeared before Judge George P. McCarthy on Thursday and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

- Cullen Willi McLaughlin, 20 - two counts of trafficking in LSD, fifth-degree felonies; appeared before Judge George P. McCarthy on Thursdasy and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

- Elijah Robert Wahib, 22, of Westlake, Ohio – tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; assault, a first-degree misdemeanor; obstructing justice, a fifth-degree felony; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unspecified misdemeanor; appeared before Judge Patrick J. Lang on Thursday and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

- James Dylan Wanke/Silver Serpent LLC, 25 - involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony; two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants, fifth-degree felonies; involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony; and improperly dispensing or distributing nitrous oxide, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; appeared before Judge Patrick J. Lang on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.

- Stephan Brent Lewis, 27 – trafficking in harmful intoxicants, a fifth-degree felony; and improperly dispensing or distributing nitrous oxide, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; arraigned before Magistrate Perrin on Tuesday and was released on his own recognizance; A trial is scheduled for Jan. 21


UPDATE: 4/30/2019 8:00 PM

Ohio University has expelled a fraternity after accusations of hazing and other student code of conduct violations.

Sigma Pi was expelled from campus by the university administration.

According to the university, school officials received notice of the death of first-year student Collin Wiant in an off-campus residence in November 2018.

A toxicology report shows that Wiant died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. At the time of his death, Wiant was a pledge of the Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Pi at Ohio University

The university said it later learned the home was an unofficial annex of the Sigma Pi fraternity (Epsilon Chapter).

During the ensuing investigation, the university said it received reports of hazing activity by members of the fraternity. The fraternity was subsequently charged with eleven violations of the student code of conduct.

Hazing charges included endangerment, brutality, coerced consumption, mental stress and coerced activities. The fraternity was also accused of damage to property, alcoholic beverage violations and harmful behavior.

It was found in violation on 10 of the 11 charges.

The university said the decision to expel the fraternity is effective immediately and final.

A lawsuit was filed against the fraternity and its international headquarters in February.


ORIGINAL STORY: 2/14/2019

The family of an Ohio University student who died after pledging with the Sigma Pi Fraternity is accusing the fraternity of extensive physical and mental hazing.

A lawsuit filed Thursday in Athens County Court says Ohio University student Collin Wiant was beaten with a belt, pelted with eggs, deprived of sleep and forced to take drugs and drink a gallon of alcohol in an hour.

The suit, seeking at least $25,000, names both the local chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity and the fraternity's Lebanon, Tennessee-based national office.

The lawsuit says the 18-year-old freshman from Dublin died Nov. 12, 2018, of asphyxiation due to ingestion of nitrous oxide provided to and forced on Wiant by fraternity members.

Jonathan Frost, Sigma Pi's executive director, declined to comment on the complaint.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATE: 11/14/18 2:20 P.M.

An Ohio University fraternity has been told to halt all “organizational activities” following the death of a recent pledge at an off-campus apartment.

Colin Wiant, 19, of Dublin, Ohio, died at a hospital early Monday morning after medical personnel found him unresponsive in an apartment at 45 Mill Street. That prompted an investigation by the Athens Police Department.

On Tuesday, the university said in a statement that out of “an abundance of caution” the Epsilon chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity had been directed to “cease and desist all organizational activities” while police continue to investigate Wiant’s death.

The Office of Community Standards and Student Responsibility said it has has received information alleging that the fraternity "has engaged in conduct that puts the health and safety of your members at risk and is not in compliance with the behavioral expectations" listed in the school's student code of conduct.

The university’s statement said the off-campus apartment where Wiant was found unresponsive is “allegedly an unofficial annex” of the Sigma Pi chapter.

According to the university’s statement, school officials have been in contact with Wiant’s family and continue “to provide support to students and employees affected by this tragic loss.”


ORIGINAL STORY

Authorities in Athens are investigating the death of an 18-year-old man from Dublin, Ohio.

Colin Wiant died Monday morning at a local hospital, the Athens Police Department said in a news release.

Police said first responders found Wiant unresponsive after getting a call to a resident at 45 Mill Street shortly before 3 a.m. on Monday.

Investigators haven't released details about how he died, but they said there's no present danger to the public.

Police said the investigation is ongoing, and more information will be released at the appropriate time and in coordination with the local coroner.

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