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Defendant in Stone Foltz hazing death case changes plea to guilty

Niall Sweeney initially pleaded not guilty in May. Seven others are facing charges.
Credit: WTOL 11
Niall Sweeney of Erie, PA, pleads not guilty May 19 to charges against him in the hazing death of BGSU student Stone Foltz.

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — A defendant in the hazing death of former Bowling Green State University student Stone Foltz changed his plea Thursday to guilty.

Niall Sweeney, 21, of Erie, Penn., accepted a plea agreement that allows him to plead guilty to one count of felony tampering with evidence, rather than involuntary manslaughter. All other charges were dropped.

Foltz family attorneys Rex Elliott and Sean Alto released the following statement:

“Mr. Sweeney’s guilty plea sends a strong message that any act of hazing will not be tolerated in this great state. While this plea can’t bring Stone Foltz back, his family prays that days like this and those to come will go a long way toward ending the decades-long culture of hazing on all college campuses.”

Seven other men are facing various charges in the case. A Sylvania man who initially had his charges dropped was re-charged last month with more serious crimes.

Foltz, a former BGSU student, was found unresponsive March 4 inside his apartment by his roommate. An investigation determined he was involved in an alcohol-related hazing incident earlier that night at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

Foltz, 20, was at a new member initiation, where new members, known as "littles" and who were almost all underage, received "bigs" or mentors, who allegedly gave their littles high alcohol content liquor and instructed them to drink the whole bottle.

The roommate performed CPR until EMS arrived. Foltz was taken to the Wood County Hospital and later to Toledo Hospital, where he died on March 7. 

The coroner said Foltz died of fatal ethanol intoxication. His blood alcohol content, or BAC, was 0.394, according to the family, who said it was likely even higher immediately after the alleged hazing ritual.

In July, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Collin's Law, establishing stricter penalties for hazing. About three weeks later, BGSU expelled three students and suspended 18 others for their "involvement and responsibility" in the Foltz incident.

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