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3 Clemson students charged with misdemeanors after freshmans alcohol-related death
Drinking Death Char 5830422
This photo, supplied by the Oconee County S. C.,jail , shows Matthew Rinckel,Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008, one of three fraternity members at Clemson University who were charged with alcohol-related misdemeanors after a freshman died of alcohol poisoning during an off-campus party, a prosecutor said Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    WALHALLA, S.C. — Three fraternity members at Clemson University were charged with alcohol-related 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.’’
    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.
    ‘‘We fully expect our members to abide by, uphold and support the laws of the land, including laws pertaining to alcohol purchase, consumption and use,’’ said Brad Beacham, executive director of the Virginia-based national Sigma Nu Fraternity.
    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.
    The prosecutor said Jetin Patel, 19,, of Spartanburg, 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 Rinckel, 20, of Lynchburg, Va., was charged with transfer of beer and transfer of liquor to a person under 21.
    Addison Kerr, 21, of Atlanta, 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.
    Associated Press Writer Katrina A. Goggins in Columbia contributed to this report.

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