The former president of the now-defunct Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to drug and hazing charges in connection with the death of Collin Wiant.
Elijah R. Wahib, 22, of the Cleveland suburb of Westlake, entered a guilty plea to two counts of felony obstruction of justice, felony permitting drug use, and two counts of misdemeanor hazing.
Prosecutors said that as fraternity president, Wahib allowed members to haze pledges, including forcing pledges to consume hot sauce and exercise. He also permitted drug use to take place at the fraternity’s unofficial, off-campus house, in Athens. Marijuana, cocaine, Xanax and ecstasy were found at the residence, according to prosecutors.
After Wiant’s death in November 2018, Wahib instructed his fraternity brothers to not provide any information to Ohio University investigators.
The hearing, which would’ve taken place in Athens County Common Pleas Court, was conducted over Zoom video teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Wahib was sentenced by Athens County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Lang to 31 days in jail for the misdemeanors, with one day of credit, and to participation in a drug and alcohol diversion program for the felonies.
Wahib is the fifth former Sigma Pi member to plead guilty to charges related to Wiant’s death.
Former OU student Saxon Angell-Perez, 22, of Upper Arlington, pleaded guilty in May to felony permitting drug abuse, felony cocaine possession and misdemeanor hazing charges.
Former OU student Dominic Figliola, 21, of Athens, pleaded guilty in February to two felony charges of possession of drugs and a misdemeanor charge of hazing and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws.
That same day in February, current OU student Cullen W. McLaughlin, 20, of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of possession of LSD.
Zachary Herskovitz, 22, of Robinson Township, Pennsylvania, also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of permitting drug abuse and a misdemeanor hazing charge.
Perez, Figliola, Herskovitz and McLaughlin did not receive jail time, but all must complete the diversion program run by the Athens County prosecutor’s office. Figliola and McLaughlin also were placed on nonreporting probation for the hazing charge.
In return for their pleas, those four agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the remaining cases against Sigma Pi members, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said.
Wahib briefly addressed the court and the Wiant family.
“I want to extend my sincere condolences to the Wiant family,” he said.
Wahib also apologized to the state and the court for his previous conduct during his proceedings.
Wade and Kathleen Wiant, Collin’s parents, appeared via Zoom from their home in Dublin and addressed the court and Wahib.
Wade Wiant said that no holiday makes evident the complexity and sadness of Collin’s death for him like Father’s Day. The Wiant’s other four children know they can never eliminate all of his grief for a single day, which hurts their family, Wade said.
“Collin’s death would’ve been avoided with the right leadership in this organization,” he said.
Wade Wiant said Wahib “was elected to lead men and he failed.”
Kathleen Wiant said that although she has experienced the loss of loved ones before Collin’s death, nothing compares to losing a child. The void his absence brings, she said, becomes more apparent over time.
But she said she is confident that good will come from Collin’s death is committed to continue to promote anti-hazing.
The charges came after the Dispatch, part of the USA TODAY Network, published a six-part investigation titled “Broken Pledge.” The project detailed the hazing and death of the 18-year-old freshman.
Collin Wiant died after collapsing inside Sigma Pi annex house, where Wahib and several other fraternity brothers lived. A coroner ruled that Wiant died of asphyxiation from nitrous oxide ingestion after he inhaled a canister of the gas, also known as a whippit.
University officials launched an investigation after Wiant’s death and later expelled the fraternity from campus.
Blackburn said in November that the indictments were meant not only to hold people accountable for their roles in Wiant’s death but also to send a message that there is no tolerance for hazing.
Criminal cases are pending for four other individuals indicted as part of the investigation:
Former OU student Joshua T. Androsac, 20, of Lewis Center: involuntary manslaughter, permitting drug abuse, hazing and two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants.
Former OU student Corbin M. Gustafson, 22, of Furlong, Pennsylvania: reckless homicide.
Former OU student James Dylan Wanke, 25, of Athens: two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants, and distributing nitrous oxide.
Stephan B. Lewis, 27, of Athens: trafficking in harmful intoxicants and improperly dispensing or distributing nitrous oxide.
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