EAST LANSING — The Ingham County Prosecutor's Office has dropped charges against one of three members of the since-disbanded Pi Alpha Phi fraternity at Michigan State University in connection with the death of Phat Nguyen in November 2021.
On Thursday, two other people charged in connection with Nguyen's death waived preliminary hearings and were bound over to circuit court to stand trial.
Charges against John Pham were dismissed. He was one of three men charged in June with one count of felony hazing resulting in death, and three counts of misdemeanor hazing resulting in physical injury, East Lansing District Court administrator Nicole Evans said.
Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon's office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Ethan Cao and Andrew Nguyen — who both face the same four charges — will be arraigned in 30th Circuit Court later this month after waiving their right to a preliminary examination before District Court Judge Molly Hennessey Greenwalt.
Phat Nguyen and Andrew Nguyen are not related.
John Pham's attorney, Dustyn Coontz, said he hasn't seen any evidence indicating his client hazed new fraternity members resulting in physical harm. Pham was the fraternity's president and organized the "crossing party," at which attendees were to celebrate four pledges becoming full members of Pi Alpha Phi.
Phat Nguyen died early Nov. 20, 2021, at 413 Stoddard Ave. in East Lansing. Police responded to a call for medical assistance about 2 a.m. and found four individuals “passed out," one of whom was “unresponsive and not breathing,” according to a press release provided at the time.
"He did organize the party, but there was absolutely nothing to show that he individually contributed to what happened beyond that," Coontz said.
Cao and Andrew Nguyen face up to 15 years in prison and/or $10,000 on the felony charge, while the misdemeanors each carry 93 days in jail and/or $1,000. They are free on $5,000 personal recognizance bonds.
Brian Morley, Andrew Nguyen's attorney, said there were a "variety of factors" in his client waiving the preliminary exam.
"This is a tough case. There's no reason to necessarily cause too much emotional turmoil right now," Morley said. "At the same time, we have the opportunity to continue to work on this and try to get a resolution, whether it's at the circuit court level or back at the district court level."
The defense can request the judge remand the case back to district court before the end of 2022.
Cao's attorney, Edwar Zeineh, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Michigan State University removed the fraternity's registered student organization status and suspended its charter for at least 10 years in December, while Pi Alpha Phi's National Board closed the chapter.
Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mike Cheltenham said in June that he believes it was the first time the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office has sought the felony charges of hazing resulting in death. The charge became law in 2004 with Michigan’s passage of Senate Bill 0783, which prohibited the hazing of an individual by someone affiliated with an educational institution.
None of the three men are enrolled for the fall semester at MSU, university spokesperson Dan Olsen said in June.
Coontz said Pham was permanently dismissed from the university on the last day of his class of his senior year, when he was due to complete his final credit hours for graduation.
Contact reporter Jared Weber at 517-582-3937 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: One student's charges dropped, two others' advanced in MSU hazing case