COLUMBIA, Mo. – Six fraternity brothers who have been criminally charged for hazing a 19-year-old man that left him in a wheelchair, blind and unable to speak were set to appear in court Thursday.
During Thursday’s hearings, four of the six were represented by attorneys. No one appeared for the other two fraternity brothers. The hearings were quick as the judge set preliminary hearings over the course of September, October, and November.
There are a total of 11 people charged in the hazing incident of former University of Missouri student Danny Santulli. One year ago, Santulli was starting his freshman year of college when weeks later, according to a lawsuit, he was ordered to drink a liter of vodka during a fraternity event.
Attorneys representing Samuel Lane, Blake Morsovilli, Samuel Gandhi, and John O’Neill were in the Boone County Courthouse Thursday. Samuel Morrison and Harrison Reichman were not represented. Benjamin Parres and Benjamin Karl have court dates scheduled in October and September.
Other fraternity members such as Thomas A. Shultz and Ryan P. Delanty were charged prior with hazing. Alec Wetzler was charged with supplying alcohol to a minor.
The 55-page suit details the incident, explaining that Santulli attended the “Pledge Dad Reveal Night” at Mizzou’s Phi Gamma Delta house and drank so much that he became unresponsive.
The lawsuit said Santulli’s pledge dad “handed Santulli the ‘family bottle’ of Tito’s vodka which Santulli was expected to consume in its entirety before the event was over.”
Santulli 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.
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, but 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 Samuel Gandhi as the fraternity brother that left after putting Santulli back on the couch.
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.
Back in May, the University of Missouri said 13 students received disciplinary sanctions because of the incident but did not give specific details. Shortly after the October event, Mizzou booted the fraternity off the campus and the house was closed.
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 says 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.
Santulli’s family lawyer, David Bianchi, said he is planning to file a lawsuit against yet another fraternity brother next week. Santulli’s older sister started her senior year at Mizzou on Monday. Last week was a rush week on campus and the university said there were no problems.
Bianchi said on the phone Thursday, that the defendants’ lawyers are attempting to get police and student records from the university. Earlier this year, Bianchi along with a lawyer for the initial 25 defendants in the civil case had reached a settlement. Bianchi said Santulli accrued more than $1.6 million of medical bills.
None of the attorneys who showed up in court Thursday would comment on the case.