Hazing News

Samuel Martinez update: Statute of limitations for a hazing charge in Washington needs extension to 24 months, plus felony penalties added: Moderator opinion

Moderator: Police in Pullman, WA have done the right thing in charging Alpha Tau Omega members with serving a minor in the alcohol-related hazing death of Samuel Martinez. But in my opinion, the Washington law could be strengthened by adding felony provisions in case of death, plus two years leeway to press actual charges of hazing. Coverage of the charges available at Washington Post, New York Times, etc.

Excerpt from Washington Post follows:

Martinez’s death has also driven his family to take on an influential system that has held sway on college campuses across the country for more than 150 years, despite a history of racismsexual violence and fatal hazing. After the Whitman County prosecutor announced the charges — 18 counts of furnishing liquor to minors — Martinez’s parents and sister issued a statement saying the punishment was far too lenient. “This is not justice,” the family said.

They pointed to the recent deaths of freshmen in Virginia and Ohio, who each died after “big brother” events, as evidence of a deeply rooted problem.

“Just like Sam, they were forced to drink lethal amounts of hard alcohol in order to join their frats. Just like Sam, they were abandoned by their so-called fraternity ‘brothers’ to die alone,” said the family statement, signed by Martinez’s mother, Jolayne Houtz; his father, Hector Martinez; and his sister, Ariana Martinez.

(Stone Foltz died in Ohio (BGU) & Adam Oakes in Virginia (VCU): Moderator).

“We say enough,” they continued. “It is time for universities, fraternities and policymakers to enact meaningful reforms that end this toxic culture.”

One such change, the family said, would be to further criminalize hazing. The 15 men charged — including Martinez’s “big brother,” a kind of Greek-life mentor — face a maximum of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, consequences the family called “insulting.”

They had hoped that hazing charges would be brought, as police recommended earlier this year, but by the time authorities turned the investigation over to prosecutors, the one-year statute of limitations had expired.

“That was very heart-wrenching for the family,” one of their attorneys, Sergio Garcidueñas-Sease, told The Washington Post. “There is plenty of evidence there that hazing occurred, so it wouldn’t have been a difficult charge to prosecute.”

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins told The Post that the coronavirus pandemic delayed the inquiry and made it even more difficult to track down and interview students who did not live year-round in the college town. Jenkins said they were waiting on results of a forensic analysis of Martinez’s cellphone, which they believed could turn up text messages that “could support a manslaughter prosecution.”

Officers chose to wait on the analysis rather than press forward with a hazing prosecution that could have created “a double-jeopardy issue” and imperiled a more severe charge, Jenkins said.

“We did not want to settle for a misdemeanor charge at the cost of the possibility of a felony manslaughter,” he added….

According to a list maintained by Hank Nuwer, a professor emeritus at Franklin College in Indiana, hazing has killed scores of students in recent decades. Since 1959, Nuwer has found, not a year has passed without a hazing death — except 2020, when the coronavirus put Greek life and in-person college attendance on hold.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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