An Ohio jury on Friday found two fraternity members not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide in the March 2021 hazing death of a 20-year-old Bowling Green State University student, but convicted them of lesser offenses.
The two, Jacob Krinn, 21, and Troy Henricksen, 24, were convicted of hazing, obstructing official business and violating underage drinking laws — all misdemeanor charges — for their roles in the fraternity event that preceded the death of Stone Foltz, a sophomore. The legal drinking age in Ohio is 21.
Sentencing for Mr. Krinn is scheduled for July 8 and for Mr. Henricksen on July 29 before Judge Joel Kuhlman of Wood County Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Krinn faces up to 11 months in prison, and Mr. Henricksen faces a maximum of 18 months, prosecutors said.
Mr. Krinn had prodded Mr. Foltz to drink almost a full bottle of liquor as part of an initiation to Pi Kappa Alpha that was organized by Mr. Henricksen, Paul A. Dobson, the Wood County prosecuting attorney, had argued. A roommate found Mr. Foltz unresponsive in their apartment, prosecutors said. Three days later, he was dead.
Defense lawyers argued that Mr. Foltz was responsible for his own death.
A lawyer for Mr. Krinn, Samuel Shamansky, rejected that a power dynamic existed between his client and Mr. Foltz, saying in an interview on Thursday that they were both the same age and had known each other for 15 years. “There was no question that our client supplied him with alcohol,” Mr. Shamansky said. “But what he chose to do with that was his free choice. He chose to drink it as quickly as possible.”
Eric F. Long, a lawyer for Mr. Henricksen, said the jury’s verdict gave his client “his future back.” Mr. Henricksen, he said, was not present at the event and was asleep at home but was charged because he was a new-member educator for the fraternity. “Prosecutors should have known better,” Mr. Long said. “This was not a felony case.”
Mr. Dobson said the charges against the two men were appropriate, noting that six other defendants had previously pleaded guilty in connection with the case — five of those to felonies.
“There was a hazing event,” he said in an interview on Friday night. “This jury found there was a hazing event. And a young man died as a result of it. That the jury didn’t make that connection doesn’t change that fact.”
He added that the verdict “wasn’t everything we fought for and we hoped it would be, but we’re grateful that the case has resulted in convictions for every individual that we charged.”
In a statement after the verdict, Mr. Foltz’s parents, Shari and Cory Foltz, said they grieved not only for their son but also for the men on trial. They said such deaths would continue until Greek organizations and the universities that support them “end hazing for good.”
“We will not rest until hazing is eradicated on all university campuses,” they said.
On March 4, 2021, Mr. Foltz, a business major from Delaware, Ohio, attended a Pi Kappa Alpha event at an off-campus house, prosecutors said. Attendance, they added, was considered mandatory.
The new members, so-called “littles” or “little brothers” (most of them underage), were each given a bottle of about one liter of liquor, which they were expected to consume by the end of the event, according to prosecutors, who said that Mr. Foltz consumed “nearly all” of his bottle of bourbon.
When paramedics arrived at Mr. Foltz’s apartment, his roommate was performing CPR, but Mr. Foltz was no longer breathing, they said. He was taken to Wood County Hospital and later transferred to Toledo Hospital, where he died on March 7.
The county coroner ruled his death an accident “as the result of a fatal level of alcohol intoxication during a hazing incident,” according to Mr. Dobson, who said that Mr. Foltz’s blood-alcohol level had been four times the legal limit.
In April 2021, Bowling Green, which is 20 miles south of Toledo, announced that it had expelled the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity after placing it on an interim suspension. That month, eight men, seven of them Bowling Green students, were indicted in connection with Mr. Foltz’s death.
The other six defendants — Canyon Caldwell, Niall Sweeney, Jarrett Prizel, Aaron Lehane, Daylen Dunson and Benjamin Boyers — pleaded guilty to some of the charges, and had other charges dropped.
Mr. Dobson, the prosecutor, said that there were “different plea agreements for different individuals, depending on the information they could provide as well as their culpability.” Some of the men, he added, will be sentenced on June 16.
Mr. Foltz’s death was among the latest to underscore the dangers of initiation rituals into college fraternities and clubs, which often involve excessive drinking and other dangerous activities. Sometimes, these have been fatal.
In 2018, an 18-year-old Ohio University student, Collin Wiant, died after inhaling nitrous oxide at a fraternity event. In 2017, Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died after drinking large quantities of alcohol while pledging a fraternity. Maxwell Gruver, an 18-year-old student at Louisiana State University, also died that year after aspirating vomit into his lungs following extreme drinking at a fraternity initiation ritual.
In July, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio signed into law a measure increasing the penalties for hazing, named Collin’s Law, after Mr. Wiant.
Before the verdict, Mr. Dobson, the prosecutor, said that while his focus had been on seeking justice for Mr. Foltz’s family, he hoped the case might help to stop hazing deaths in the future. He added: “I don’t ever want to have to try a case like this again.”
Rex Elliott, who is representing Mr. Foltz’s parents in separate, civil cases against some of the men, said in a statement that Bowling Green State University should do more to acknowledge its culpability and must do more to stop hazing in student organizations across the country.
“We pray that Stone’s death will cause all universities and national fraternities to finally step up to the plate to put a hard stop to hazing on every college campus in America,” Mr. Elliot said.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.