BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An attorney for a former LSU student accused in the death of fraternity pledge Maxwell Gruver, alleges he excessively drank and smoked marijuana the entire month he was enrolled at the university, including the night of his death, in a motion filed Tuesday.
Matthew Naquin was charged with negligent homicide following a 2017 hazing ritual that resulted in Gruver dying from alcohol poisoning.
Naquin’s defense team filed a motion to include evidence from numerous witness statements recorded by LSU Campus Police, the District Attorney’s Office, and LSU’s Student Accountability Office that indicate Gruver drank alcohol and smoked marijuana excessively during the month before his death.
The filing indicates Gruver’s roommate said Max was “sober for maybe five of those nights” during the month he lived on LSU’s campus. One witness told investigators Gruver appeared more intoxicated at another event than on the night he died.
Another witness indicated it was “commonplace” to see Gruver drunk. “Max was always the one to get most drunk,” the filing says.
“Max was late to everything and did not care about repercussions from other fraternity members,” a witness told investigators, paraphrased in the filing. “Max was not scared of anyone and never showed any remorse for showing up late.”
“Max Gruver, sadly and tragically, began using alcohol and smoking marijuana from the first day he set foot on campus at LSU,” the filing continues. “He continued to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana on a daily basis.”
The filing alleges Gruver showed up high on marijuana to the September 2017 Phi Delta Theta hazing ritual referred to as “Bible study,” where pledges were required to chug strong alcohol if they gave incorrect answers to questions about the fraternity.
Gruver died that night with a blood-alcohol level of 0.495 percent - more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. The autopsy also found THC in his system, the chemical found in marijuana.
The Gruver family contends that it’s not possible for a person to drink themselves into a BAC that high.
Naquin’s attorney, John McLindon, argues that witness statements show “unequivocally that Gruver voluntarily, and without any hint of coercion or duress, drank excessive amounts of alcohol and smoked excessive amounts of marijuana on a nearly daily basis.”
McLindon says this evidence "certainly" negates any intent or criminal negligence on Naquin's part.
“I want the jury to be able to consider this evidence in the totality of all the evidence and I think it’d be grossly unfair if the jury were not made aware of this evidence,” McLindon said in an interview with WAFB Tuesday. “If the district attorney is going to claim my client forced Max to drink, this evidence shows that’s really not true.”
The Gruver family responded, accusing McLindon of victim-shaming, and said the motion is meant to deflect the blame away from Naquin.
“I’m clearly not victim-blaming," McLindon said. “It’s a matter of accepting personal responsibility for your actions.”
Naquin’s trial is scheduled for July. Judge Beau Higginbotham will decide in April if McLindon’s proposed evidence is admissible.
“I have gone above and beyond to take the high road in this case,” McLindon said. “I feel sorry for the Gruver’s, they’ve lost a child. On the other hand, I feel sorry for my client and his parents. They’re suffering with people telling them, ‘Oh, your son killed somebody.’"
Phi Delta Theta has been banned from LSU’s campus until at least 2033.