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Newsletter > February 2020 > "The First Convictions In The Death Of Collin Wiant Are In – More To Come"
The First Convictions In The Death Of Collin Wiant Are In – More To Come
Tim Burke, Fraternal Law Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org
Collin Wiant died on November 12, 2018.
On February 27, 2020, the first three of nine students charged in his hazing-related death plead guilty and were convicted. Dominic Figliola was convicted of hazing and was sentenced to one year of non-reporting probation. Cullen McLaughin was convicted of two fifth-degree felonies for possession of LSD. He was ordered to complete a drug program. Zachary Herskovitz plead guilty to a felony of Permitting Drug Abuse and was convicted by the judge of hazing. His sentence on the felony was delayed pending completion of a rehabilitation program, and he was ordered to serve a year of non-reporting probation and pay a $250 fine on the hazing conviction.
While these sentences may seem light under the circumstances, they are not the end of the story. Other charges against Figliola, including two felonies related to the possession of drugs, have been held in abeyance while he completes a rehabilitation program. Perhaps most importantly, these light sentences were conditioned on each of the three agreeing to testify against others charged in the death of Wiant. Other individuals face charges ranging from felonies of involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, trafficking in cocaine, obstructing justice, and tampering with evidence as well as misdemeanors of hazing, assault, and underage drinking.
A civil suit against Sigma Pi and multiple other civil defendants also remains pending.
A press release issued by the Athens County Prosecutor, Keller J. Blackburn, said:
“Figliola and McLaughlin were part of a cycle of hazing that has existed within the Ohio University Sigma Pi Fraternity for years. Each class, after being hazed, waited until their turn to inflict the same or worse on the next class. Hopefully these cases and legislative changes can end this practice that exists in too many organizations across the county.”
“Legislative changes” apparently refers to the fact that the Ohio Legislature is considering strengthening the penalties for hazing-related crimes. The hazing that some of these defendants are charged with, even though it involved a death, is only a misdemeanor. It is likely Ohio will increase that to a felony carrying a sentence of serious jail time.
Those who were responsible for Collin Wiant’s death are demonstrating once again the destructive outcome of hazing mixed with alcohol and drugs. In this case, it did not end with the death of a young man. While Figliola, Herskovitz, and McLaughlin may be punished more lightly, others will likely do jail time. All nine of those charged in his death will bear with them for the rest of their lives their responsibility for ending Wiant’s life way too prematurely.
Sigma Pi, a fraternity committed to the elimination of hazing, which nationally promotes the highest ideals and core values of fraternalism, has lost a chapter and potentially faces significant exposure in the civil litigation. Sigma Pi’s reputation—indeed the reputation of all fraternities and sororities—has been damaged as a result of the actions of those who unthinkingly broke Sigma Pi’s rules, the policies of Ohio University, and Ohio criminal law.
 See Katherine Schoepflin, Lawsuit Alleges Disturbing Hazing, 159 Fraternal L. (January, 2019).