Corbin Gustafson and Joshua Androsacs, former member of the now-defunct Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, pleaded guilty to multiple charges Wednesday morning related to the death of pledge Collin Wiant.
The last two former members of Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University charged in connection with the death of pledge Collin Wiant pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to multiple charges.
Joshua T. Androsac, 20, of Lewis Center, entered a guilty plea to one count each of misdemeanor negligent homicide, misdemeanor hazing, felony permitting drug use, felony trafficking cocaine and two counts of felony trafficking harmful intoxicants.
Corbin M. Gustafson, 22, of Furlong, Pennsylvania, entered a guilty plea to one count of permitting drug use, a first-degree misdemeanor. Gustafson had originally been charged with one count of reckless homicide.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said on the night of 18-year-old Wiant’s death in November 2018, Androsac purchased 100 canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as “whippits.” The small containers of nitrous oxide are intended for home use in charging whipped cream bottles, but often are used as an inhalant to get high.
Androsac went to the fraternity’s annex house at 45 Mill Street in Athens, where he gave Wiant a whippit, Blackburn said.
Wiant, a freshman from Dublin, died shortly after collapsing inside the annex house. A coroner ruled that Wiant died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. The Dispatch published a six-part, award-winning investigation, “Broken Pledge,” that detailed the hazing and death of Wiant.
Blackburn and assistant county prosecutor Meg Saunders said the Sigma Pi case is unlike most criminal cases that come before the court because of how much information and how many parties are involved.
As the prosecutor’s office received more information after the original indictments, prosecutors said it became clear that Gustafson should not have been charged with reckless homicide.
Gustafson and Androsac were both with Wiant when he died.
When Wiant collapsed after inhaling the whippit, it was originally believed that Gustafson first called then-Sigma Pi president Elijah Wahib to get permission to call 911, then waited several minutes before doing so, according to phone records obtained as part of the investigation.
Saunders said it was later revealed that Gustafson left the room to ask his friends at the annex house if Wiant’s behavior was unusual during the time between when he collapsed and when Gustafson called 911.
“If we had had those facts, I don’t think we would’ve given to the grand jury that (reckless homicide) charge,” Saunders said. “It’s so unfortunate that Mr. Gustafson was indicted this way. It’s unfortunate for the Wiants, too.”
Wednesday’s hearings were conducted partly over Zoom video teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gustafson called in from Pennsylvania with his attorneys, and Androsac was in the courtroom.
Gustafson will participate in the Athens County Prosecutor’s office diversion program as a result of his plea.
Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge George McCarthy said he would agree to the plea change, “but quite begrudgingly.”
McCarthy told Gustafson that while he appreciates him calling 911, “had it been a little more timely then maybe it would’ve made a difference.”
“It was too little too late in this particular circumstance,” the judge said.
In addition to the diversion program, McCarthy required Gustafson to visit four civic organizations to share his story in hopes that the experience would prevent other students from meeting the same fate as Wiant.
Gustafson apologized to the Wiants for his part in Collin’s death. He said that he lives with what happened that night every day, and he promised the Wiants that he would work to make a difference and live the rest of his life in a manner honoring their son.
Athens County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Lang sentenced Androsac to 70 days in jail for his misdemeanor charges. Sentencing on Androsac’s remaining felony charges will be held in abeyance pending the completion of a diversion program.
An emotional Androsac apologized to the Wiants and asked for their forgiveness.
“I was graced to know your son. You raised a hell of a son. I’m so sorry for taking your son from you,” Androsac said through tears.
Kathleen and Wade Wiant, Collin’s parents, both made brief statements via Zoom during the hearings.
Kathleen thanked Gustafson for calling 911. Wade asked that Gustafson let the sadness he feels from Collin’s death become a catalyst for change in his life.
Both Kathleen and Wade noted the irony during Androsac’s hearing that two years ago they were helping Collin move into his dorm at Ohio University.
“We had no idea this would be the beginning of the end of his life,” Kathleen said.
The Wiants asked Androsac to use this moment to learn from this experience and use his truth to change the lives of others.
“We as a family pray that the defendant use this opportunity to change his life and move froward,” Wade said. “This is his chance to pay his debt to Collin, but more importantly, to God.”