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3 students charged in alcohol-related death

Three fraternity members at Clemson University were charged with  misdemeanors after a freshman died of alcohol poisoning during an off-campus party.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three fraternity members at Clemson University were charged with misdemeanors after a freshman died of alcohol poisoning during an off-campus party, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

The students' activities did not directly lead to the death of 18-year-old Benjamin Garrison Sprague, prosecutor Chrissy Adams said. But the three students, all members of the fraternity Sigma Nu, face charges that include transferring beer and liquor to a minor and using fake identification to buy alcohol.

Adams said Sprague was not forced to drink at the party.

"Ben made choices that night to consume alcohol, and he consumed alcohol in excess, and that led to his death," Adams said. "These boys made a mistake by providing the alcohol and having it available at a fraternity party to underage drinkers."

Blood-alcohol level of 0.38 percent
Sprague died of alcohol poisoning Dec. 9 at an off-campus Sigma Nu fraternity house. He had a blood-alcohol level of nearly 0.38 percent — about five times above the legal threshold for driving, Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis has said.

After Sprague's death, the school's Sigma Nu chapter was placed on interim suspension by the university and the national fraternity pending investigations. The suspension means the group cannot hold any meetings or parties.

Adams said Sprague, who had recently been initiated into the fraternity, had been drinking for four hours before he arrived at the party. Adams read a statement from Sprague's parents that said, "While we acknowledge Ben's errors in judgment, we do not believe his errors overshadow his goodness."

Clemson spokeswoman Robin Denny said the school will determine if the students who were charged would also be suspended.

"Our first thoughts are with the Sprague family and continue to be with them, since this is just another sad day for their family and for the Clemson family," Denny said.

Fake ID for beer buy, prosecutor says
The prosecutor said Jetin Patel, 19, was charged with using a fake ID to purchase beer at a grocery store. He also faces charges of underage possession of beer and transfer of beer to a person under 21.

Matthew Rinkel, 20, was charged with transfer of beer and transfer of liquor to a person under 21.

Addison Kerr, 21, was charged with transfer of liquor to a minor.

It was unclear whether the students had attorneys. All three were booked Tuesday and released from jail on their own recognizance.

While their punishments could range anywhere from fines to about one month in jail, Adams said the students are eligible for a pretrial intervention program. If they are admitted and successfully complete the program, the charges would be removed from their records.