FRESNO – Three students are being charged in connection to the death of a Fresno State student during a hazing incident last year.
Philip Dhanens, 18, died of acute alcohol intoxication after taking part in a hazing ritual at a Theta Chi party on Aug. 31, 2012.
Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan announced on Tuesday that Aaron Joseph Raymo, 24, Leonard Louis Serrato, 28, and fraternity president Daniel Woodard Baker, 22, have all been charged in connection to the incident on two misdemeanor counts: hazing and providing alcohol to a minor contributing in the minor’s death.
Dhanens, from Bakersfield, had just pledged Theta Chi and was at a party at the fraternity’s house where he took part in a ritual that encouraged heavy drinking. Authorities say the 18-year-old drank the equivalent of 37 one-ounce shots of hard liquor.
Raymo, Serrato and Baker “were the event organizers who purchased or otherwise made available alcohol to minors,” Egan said. “During the event that evening, Philip Dhanens was provided with enough alcohol within an hour to raise his blood alcohol level to .40, a toxic amount that is more than five times the legal limit in California.”
Egan called Dhanens’ death “100 percent preventable.”
“The decision by three individuals to provide alcohol to a teenager and the young adult’s decision to drink resulted in his death,” she said. “And today, publicly, we discuss the pending prosecution of these three while the parents and family and friends of Philip will privately live with the nightmare of his death for the rest of their lives.”
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said that officers held 67 interviews and spent 700 investigative hours looking into the case against the three men.
“There is nothing we could have done during the course of this investigation to bring Philip Dhanens back, but we could bring (his parents) justice,” he said.
Egan said that the three men have no prior criminal history and did not intend for Dhanens to die, but “their actions led to deadly results requiring criminal intervention to hold them accountable.”
Raymo, Serrato and Baker face a jail sentence of six months to one year in custody and a fine of up to $5,000, Egan said.
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