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Fifth Phi Gamma Delta hazing case set for trial

Another hazing case related to an October 2021 fraternity party in which an MU student was injured is set to go to trial.

During a Tuesday morning hearing, a 13th Circuit Court judge moved a criminal case against Benjamin Parres to the trial request docket, setting the stage for an eventual trial in early 2024.

Parres is the fifth former member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, commonly known as Fiji, set to face a jury. Eleven men have been charged in connection with the “Pledge Father Reveal” party that left Danny Santulli unresponsive.

An attorney representing Benjamin Karl, one of the few remaining defendants who haven’t pleaded guilty or been set for trial, successfully requested a continuance to have more time to prepare a defense.

Judge Joshua Devine questioned the need for another extension, but Karl’s attorney, Benjamin Faber, said Karl’s case “can’t go to trial before” the other hazing cases.

Devine set another status hearing for July 17 and warned he can’t control the pace of criminal proceedings taking place in front of other judges.

The first of the trials, for Samuel Morrison, is now scheduled to start Sept. 26, barring delays.

Two other trials, for Ryan Delanty and Samuel Lane, are set for December. A case against Jack O’Neill is on the trial request docket for January 2024.

One former member of the fraternity, Harrison Reichman, is in the Boone County Jail, where he is completing 15 days of shock detention as part of a plea deal. Thomas Shultz was recently discharged from the jail after spending 30 days in shock detention, also as part of a plea agreement.

Alec Wetzler previously pleaded guilty to alcohol-related misdemeanors stemming from the incident and will be sentenced June 6.

The criminal proceedings have picked up pace as some cases near the one-year mark since charges were initially filed.

Last year, Santulli’s family sued and settled with 26 parties in civil court, including the 11 criminal defendants.

Santulli is living with his parents in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and cannot walk, talk or see.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.