15 Charged in Hazing Death of Wash. State Fraternity Pledge Allegedly Forced to Drink at Party
Fifteen men have been charged in connection with the 2019 death of a Washington State University freshman who was allegedly forced to drink at a party hosted by a fraternity he had pledged to join.
Samuel Martinez, 19, died of alcohol poisoning after attending an event hosted by Washington State University's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity in November 2019, according to Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy.
In a press release Wednesday, Tracy announced that 15 men were charged each with supplying liquor to minors. According to Tracy, furnishing liquor to minors is a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
In a statement to the New York Times, Martinez' family said the penalties were "insulting compared to the devastating consequences of their actions, which directly led to Sam's death, and the loss we are living with for the rest of our lives."
According to Martinez' family, he and another pledge were made to drink a half-gallon of rum between them. After his death, Martinez' blood-alcohol content level was measured at nearly five times the legal limit.
His death was ruled accidental, NBC News reports.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
"While the charges may lead to some level of accountability, this is not justice. It does not bring us closure," Martinez' family said in a statement Wednesday, the Seattle Times reports. "We are deeply disappointed that no one will face a charge of hazing in this case."
Following Martinez' death, the fraternity closed its chapter at WSU and expelled the members involved. Martinez' family has since filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the university and the fraternity.
In July, Martinez' mother, Jolayne Houtz, wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times urging colleges and universities to end the "toxic tradition" of hazing, writing, "The college fraternity system is long overdue for the kind of reckoning many other American institutions now face for enabling and perpetuating violence, injustice and destructive behavior."
A spokesman for Washington State University could not be reached for comment Friday.