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WSU Students Accused Of Making Pledge Drink Half-Gallon Of Liquor Before His Death Sentenced To 1 Day In Jail

sam martinez Alpha Tau Omega

19-year-old Sam Martinez's death is being revisited after three former Washington State University fraternity members pleaded guilty to one count of furnishing liquor to a minor on Friday. 

In total, fifteen members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity have been charged in connection to the event. 

Sam Martinez died from alcohol poisoning at an Alpha Tau Omega event. 

On Nov. 12, 2019, Martinez died after attending a fraternity event. The medical examiner determined the cause of death was an accident caused by alcohol poisoning. 

The coroner also said that no one called 911 until four hours after Martinez died. 

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His parents challenged this ruling in 2020 by filing a wrongful death suit against WSU & Alpha Tau Omega. Martinez's parents claimed their son and other pledges were "instructed to drink a half-gallon bottle of hard alcohol before the end of the evening," according to the suit. 

The WSU students involved in Martinez's death pleaded guilty.

The original Pullman police statement said hazing wasn't involved in Martinez's death, though they later retracted the statement after interviewing witnesses. 

Former students Maxwell Rovegno, Cameron Thomas, and Nolan Valcik were not accused of furnishing alcohol to Martinez. However, they recently pleaded guilty to one count. 

Furnishing liquor to minors is deemed a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail as well as a $5,000 fine. Rovegno, Thomas, and Valcik were only ordered to spend a day in jail. They also paid a mere $1,000 with $500 suspended. 

Sam Martinez's family wants justice. 

When the charges were first filed, the family issued a statement saying the suspects deserve to be charged with hazing.

They called the penalizations “insulting compared to the devastating consequences of their actions" and added, “This is not justice. It does not bring us closure.” 

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"We want you to know and remember some things about Sam–his amazing athleticism, the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, his sharp mind, his sense of humor and his steadfast loyalty to his family and friends," the Martinez family said in 2019. 

"Sam was a beautiful spark of light, a comet that came and went through our lives too quickly. We are overcome with grief. And we are so grateful for your prayers and well wishes through this unbearable loss." 

Hazing-related deaths aren't new.  

Dangerous hazing practices have been around for years. Statistics show that 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations have all experienced hazing at some point. 

More shockingly yet, studies show that only 29% of Greek leaders are concerned with the overuse of alcohol during pledge activities despite the well-publicized danger of alcohol poisoning. 

It's thought that every year for the past two decades, at least one young man dies in connection with fraternity hazing, whether it be alcohol related or something else entirely. This year alone, the deaths of Adam Oakes and Stone Foltz prompted a call pushing for Greek life reform. 

It's worth noting that as of 2019, only 44 states have passed laws prohibiting hazing. Only 10 have made hazing a felony when it results in a death or serious injury. 

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Yona Dervishi is a writer who is currently working at YourTango as an editorial intern. She covers topics pertaining to news and entertainment.