BOWLING GREEN — Four men who pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the hazing death of a Bowling Green State University student have been sentenced.
Two will be spending time in jail.
Jarrett Prizel, Niall Sweeney, Benjamin Boyers and Aaron Lehane were sentenced Thursday by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Joel Kuhlman.
Their charges stem from a Pi Kappa Alpha initiation party held March 4, 2021, where 20-year-old BGSU sophomore Stone Foltz drank an excessive amount of alcohol and died March 7.
(The sentencing of former Pi Kappa Alpha President Daylen Dunson appears above.)
Prizel, 20, Olean, New York, pleaded guilty April 22 to the amended charge of reckless homicide, a felony of the third degree; and eight counts of hazing, all fourth-degree misdemeanors.
Seven counts of failure to comply with underage alcohol laws were dismissed Thursday.
“It is valuable to remember we’re dealing with the death of an individual who wanted to be a part of something,” said Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson.
Everything that happened before March 4 created an understanding of new members that the key to being accepted into the fraternity was the good word of the active members, including new member educator Troy Henricksen and through him Prizel.
Prizel took the place of Henricksen at the March 4 party.
Since 1959, there has been at least one hazing death every single year except during the pandemic in 2020, Dobson said. College kids need to understand they have the responsibility to change this, he said.
Prizel said in the presentence investigation that he contributed to the overall atmosphere of the party and the assumption that the pledges were expected to finish their “family bottle” of liquor.
It was tradition among the Pike initiation events for pledges to drink from the family bottle, which is the same alcohol that their sponsor drank at his own initiation.
Dobson said he gave a great deal of weight to Prizel’s willingness to testify.
“And yet, there’s this responsibility,” he said.
He asked for a sentence of 30 days in jail and three years of community control.
Defense attorney Stevin Groth said Prizel didn’t cover things up and testified honestly.
“All of these kids for the most part are good men, but they failed here,” Groth said, asking for a sentence of community control.
The court received 15 letters of support from friends and family. Prizel is now attending Auburn University in Alabama.
Prizel apologized to Foltz’s parents, Cory and Shari Foltz.
“I want to say from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry for everything your family has endured in the last 14 months,” he said. “I’ve felt absolutely terrible since that day … and it will never leave me from now on.”
Kuhlman said investigation has show Prizel did tell a pledge he did not have to drink that night.
“You could have done that with every single person that was there,” he said.
He sentenced Prizel to 28 days in jail followed by 28 days of house arrest and two years of community control.
His jail sentence was deferred to July 10 to allow him to finish online classes.
Sweeney, 22, Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty Sept. 16 to the amended charge of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and one count hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
Charges of obstructing official business, seven counts hazing and seven counts failure to comply with underage alcohol laws were dismissed.
He said Sweeney was the second person to approach him and offered to cooperate.
Sweeney was an officer, a Big and a resident of the off-campus house where the initiation party was held.
Sweeney graduated from college this week and has shown respect for the family, the court and the process, Dobson said.
“I don’t know how jail would fit into this case. … Mr. Sweeney has done everything he can to right a wrong no one saw coming,” he said.
“I should have been cooperative that night with the police officers and the detective,” Sweeney said. “I wished I had done something to stop the event from happening in the first place.”
He was sentenced to 14 days in jail followed by 28 days of house arrest, and was immediately taken to jail.
Boyers, 22, Sylvania, on April 26 pleaded guilty to the amended charge of reckless homicide, a third-degree felony; an amended county of obstructing justice, a fifth-degree felony; and eight counts hazing, all fourth-degree misdemeanors.
Seven counts of failure to comply with underage alcohol laws were dismissed.
As a roommate in the off-campus fraternity house, Boyers was tasked with removing garbage bags filled with evidence and disposing of them elsewhere the morning after the party.
Had it not been for the decision to host the party at the off-campus house, Boyers would not have been there, said defense attorney Kurt Bruderly said. He had a drink, then left the party.
Boyers didn’t interact with the pledges and did not know Foltz, Bruderly said.
“But he felt it necessary to take responsibility for his actions,” Bruderly said.
His client knew what happened at those parties and was complicit because he allowed the party to take place, he said.
Boyers is set to graduate in August from Eastern Michigan University.
Jail will mean he will not be able to complete his coursework and not have a job upon graduation, Bruderly said.
Boyers said in the last 15 months he has experienced many adversities, but he has kept his goals in mind and plans to graduate and get a job in construction.
He said he feels remorse for the Foltz family for the loss of their son and that he will feel it for the rest of his life.
“I will work continuously to be an upstanding citizen to society and impact the community in a positive way,” Boyers said in asking for a sentence of community control.
Kuhlman imposed a sentence of 30 days in jail for each of the hazing charges, with all time suspended. Boyers must stay under house arrest for 28 days with privileges to drive to school. He was placed on two years of community control.
Lehane, 22, Bowling Green, pleaded guilty on Oct. 21 to amended obstructing justice, a first-degree misdemeanor; obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor; eight counts hazing, all fourth-degree misdemeanors; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unclassified misdemeanor.
Six counts of failure to comply with underage liquor laws were dismissed.
While he was not a member of the fraternity, he was a member of the household and gave inaccurate information to the police. Lehane cleaned up the liquor bottles because he feared law enforcement would be back.
Lehane was the first to cooperate, Dobson said.
Defense attorney Mark Krumbein emphasized that his client was the first to accept responsibility.
“He made some terrible mistakes, but he did whatever he could do to make up for wrongdoing and do whatever he could to help,” Krumbein said.
Lehane dropped out of school at the end of 2020 and while no longer a member of the fraternity, his name was on the lease of the off-campus house.
“He never dreamed any of this would take place,” Krumbein said. “This has just completely eaten him up over time. He is devastated over what occurred.”
Kuhlman sentenced Lehane to 2 years of community control and imposed a total of 270 days in jail for the first two charges, 30 days each for each hazing charge and 180 days of the alcohol offense. He then suspended those sentences.
Each of these four men also was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, with 10 hours of credit given for each speech or panel participation about the consequences of hazing.
Canyon Caldwell, 22, Dublin, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of hazing and obstructing justice.
The night of the party, Caldwell cleaned up the evidence of the event, put it in garbage bags and placed those bags in the basement knowing that Boyers would remove them.
He will be sentenced June 24.
Co-defendants Jacob Krinn and Troy Henricksen will be sentenced in July. Their two-week trial ended May 27.
Krinn, 21, Delaware, was found guilty of the misdemeanor charges of obstructing official business, hazing and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws. Sentencing is June 24.
Henricksen, 24, Grove City, was found guilty of eight counts of hazing and seven violations of the same alcohol law as Krinn. Sentencing is July 29.