COLUMBIA, Mo.– One fraternity brother who is being charged in a Mizzou hazing case was set to appear in court Friday for his arraignment.
Samuel Gandhi was indicted along with seven other Phi Gamma Delta fraternity members by a grand jury in Boone County last month for hazing. According to the family’s lawsuit, Danny Santulli, now a 19-year-old man, is in a wheelchair, blind, unable to speak or care for himself after an event at the fraternity house last October.
Santulli was rushing the fraternity last fall as a freshman. According to the lawsuit and the indictment documents, he was handed the “‘family bottle’ of Tito’s Vodka, which Danny was expected to consumer in its entirety before the event was over.”
The attorney for Gandhi appeared in front of a Boone County judge Friday and pleaded not guilty. The judge waived Gandhi’s appearance and his arraignment during the hearing and set a status hearing for late November.
Benjamin Parres, Benjamin Karl, Samuel Morrison, Harrison Reichman, John “Jack” O’Neill, Blake Morsovillo and Samuel Lane, were indicted in September along with Gandhi. In June, Thomas Shultz and Ryan Delanty were indicted. In total, 10 fraternity members have been indicted by a grand jury.
According to the indictment documents, after Santulli was given the liter of vodka, he was then selected by other members to drink a beer through a tube. The lawsuit names Alex Wetzler as the brother who made Santulli drink the beer.
Wetzler, who was charged over the summer with supply alcohol to a minor, was set to appear in court Tuesday. His attorney asked to continue the hearing until November because he had not heard back from the Boone County prosecutor.
The lawsuit then went on to say that before midnight, Santulli was sitting on a couch in “extreme distress and with a blood alcohol of .468%.” That’s nearly six times the legal limit in Missouri. Thirty minutes later, around 12:30 a.m., Santulli slid partially off the couch and ended with his face on the floor. He had no control of his arms or legs and stayed there until someone passing through the room put him back on the couch. The lawsuit names Gandhi as the fraternity brother that left after putting Santulli back on the couch.
The amended lawsuit filed earlier this month named Reichman again, as the man who carried Santulli off the couch and dropped him while taking him to another fraternity member’s car.
The lawsuit states Santulli’s “skin was pale and his lips were blue, yet no one called 911.” Instead, the decision was made to drive Santulli to University Hospital in Columbia in one of the brother’s cars. The lawsuit says “when they arrived, hospital staff went to the car only to find that Danny was not breathing and in cardiac arrest. CPR was performed and Danny’s heart was restarted.”
Santulli was then rushed to the intensive care unit (ICU) and put on a ventilator. Days later, he was removed from the ventilator and able to breathe on his own, but he was still unresponsive. He was unaware of his surroundings, unable to communicate, and had a significant injury to his brain.
Santulli, now unable to walk, talk, is blind and unable to care for himself. He lives in Minnesota with his parents, but his older sister just started her senior year at Mizzou. The family’s lawyer, David Bianchi, said he’s been told seven fraternity members have been expelled from Mizzou, but the University of Missouri only says that 13 have been disciplined. Bianchi said that Danny’s sister has seen some of the brothers involved in her brother’s case around campus this year. Bianchi said that Danny’s medical bills exceed over $2 million.
This week, the University of Missouri sent a letter to fraternity and sorority leaders about new hazing prevention tools. The letter says the “new training consists of three effective, evidence-based courses:”
- Hazing Prevention 101 provides techniques to recognize, prevent and report hazing, as well as recommendations for constructive development activities as alternatives to hazing.
- Hazing Prevention Fraternity & Sorority Edition provides scenarios and interactive content relevant to the experiences of fraternity and sorority members.
- Haze addresses the risks of alcohol and hazing and is a video-based course that follows a real-life hazing incident in 2004 at the University of Colorado.
According to the note, the courses are free to the University of Missouri Community and can be accessed by university login. Mizzou communications director Christian Basi said Friday these tools are not required but the university recommends them and said there will be incentives for students who complete the training.
“We are working and have been working for years to find ways to prevent hazing,” Basi said. “We obviously want to elimate it all together. We want to encourage them [student leaders] to utilize these to train their organizations on what hazing is, how to identify it and where to report it.”
Days before the incident, the lawsuit says Santulli’s sister went to the fraternity house to see Santulli, and “for the first time in his life, he broke down and cried to her.”
Santulli told his sister he was exhausted and that he could not take being in the fraternity anymore. The suit said that his sister “realized that he was suffering from overwhelming depression and fatigue.” After she and her parents tried telling Santulli to walk away from Phi Gamma Delta, Santulli said he wasn’t a quitter and “Did not want to be humiliated and ridiculed by those who rank he was trying to join.”
The lawsuit also mentioned what Santulli had to do for the older fraternity brothers before pledge night.
“He was sleep-deprived, was having to buy things for the fraternity brothers with his own money and was repeatedly ordered to clean the brothers’ rooms and bring food, alcohol, and marijuana to them at all hours of the night,” the suit alleges.
During his pledging process, the suit claims Santulli had been ordered to climb into a trash can that had broken glass in it, which resulted in a bad cut on his foot, and he had to go to the hospital to get stitches and crutches.
This isn’t the first time Phi Gamma Delta had been in trouble at Mizzou. The fraternity has a track record of alcohol-related violations in 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Less than two months before the hazing incident, Phi Gamma Delta was in violation of university policies and alcohol distribution. The school sanctioned the fraternity to the alcohol education program and the alcohol event probation.
Over the summer, the Santulli’s settled with 25 defendants in a civil case, including fraternity brothers and the national Phi Gamma Delta Organization. The eight brothers that were indicted Friday were charged with a Class D felony of hazing and are set to be back in court in October for their arraignment hearings. Shortly after the October event, Mizzou stopped recognizing the fraternity as a student organization and the national organization closed the chapter and told the university no one associated with the fraternity was living in the house. While Gandhi isn’t due back in court until the end of November, other fraternity members will be in front of a Boone County judge later this month for their arraignments.