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MU hazing incident prompts Missouri to consider lifesaving 'Danny’s Law'

The Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City
The Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. The goal of the proposed law is to alleviate the fear of repercussions for calling emergency services in hazing incidents.

JEFFERSON CITY — Danny Santulli's life and the lives of his family members changed forever in the fall of 2021 after he was hazed with alcohol at a fraternity event at the University of Missouri. Santulli was left unable to walk, talk, or see, and now his family is working with lawmakers to stop that from ever happening again.

The House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety held a public hearing on House Bill 1443, also known as Danny's Law, Thursday morning. The bill, sponsored by Travis Smith, R-Dora, would prevent the first person to call 9-1-1 and remain with the victim of a hazing incident from being charged with felony hazing.

The goal of the proposed law is to alleviate the fear of repercussions for calling emergency services in hazing incidents.

That's something Nick Santulli, Danny's older brother, said would have made a big difference.

"If someone would have called 9-1-1 in the first place, then it wouldn't have been as drastic as it was," he said.

Danny's aunt, Chrissy Prioleau, said fear led to lost time, which cost Danny and his loved ones dearly.

"If I could have that 10 minutes back or that 15 minutes back that it took them to get everybody together to pick him up, to take him to the car, dropping him one time, getting lost in the car," she said. "Yes, (to) that driver, no you don't need to be prosecuted. Give me that 10, 15 minutes back because Danny would not be in the state he is."

David Bianchi is the Santulli family attorney. He helped pass Andrew's Law in Florida, named after Andrew Coffey, who died as a result of alcohol poisoning from hazing at a Florida State University fraternity in 2017.

Bianchi said laws identical to the proposed law in Missouri have already been adopted in approximately 25 other states.

Although Danny's Law would prevent felony hazing charges for the first person to call 9-1-1, it's not a free pass, as universities could still impose sanctions for hazing.

"You can be sure, regardless of this bill, that the university is going to take action. They can expel the players in these incidents from school," Bianchi said.

Sarah Love is a senior at MU and also a sorority member who previously served on the executive board of the Panhellenic Association.

She testified in support of Danny's Law at the House committee hearing Thursday.

When asked if fear is what prevents young men in dangerous situations from calling emergency services, she said, "I think that it's the entire reason they don't. You know, that's how I feel personally. Obviously, I can't attest to that, but if I had to make any assumptions I would say that it's 100% fear."

Some lawmakers at the hearing expressed concern that the bill would let hazing offenders off too lightly, as long as they call 9-1-1.

As lawmakers continue to discuss the bill, Danny's father, Tom Santulli, encourages them to ask themselves, "If my son or daughter were in dire straights, were in danger, needed help, needed support, would they want someone to call 9-1-1? And, I think we all know the answer."

Mary Pat Santulli, Danny's mother, said this is all about getting rid of the fear of asking for help.

"If they know that they're not going to get into any type of trouble and if they cooperate then it will save lives," she said. She added, "Every day we do it for Danny. And...we continue to have hope and pray that, you know, this doesn't happen to another family."

So far, six defendants have accepted plea deals for their roles in the hazing. Five defendants have ongoing cases.

"I think we all can agree here that we would take Danny back the way he was before October 19th, 2021 over anything else. We want Danny back the way he was," Tom Santulli said.

Danny's Law still has to be voted out of committee and then get through the House and Senate before reaching the governor's desk.

To report an error or typo, email news@komu.com.

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.
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