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Defense Lawyers Say New 'Explosive' Evidence In Coffey Case Points To Drinking Problems, Drug Use

Special to WFSUNews

Defense attorneys for two of the nine men charged with felony hazing in the death of Florida State Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey say they have evidence that could potentially upend the prosecution’s case.

Photos and text messages pulled from Andrew Coffey’s phone along with statements from his former roommate are just some of the evidence that defense attorneys are saying is a major development in the felony hazing case that rocked Florida State University.

Cell phone photos show the late 20-year-old passed out on the floor of an apartment. In the photo, a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brother stands above Coffey giving a thumbs up. That photo accompanies several others depicting Coffey with friends and fraternity members each drinking entire pitchers of beer. They are just part of what defense lawyers for two of the nine men facing trial say is explosive new evidence.

Along with photos are text messages taken from Coffey’s phone that show he was setting up the purchase of amphetamine drug Adderall.  

Attorney Don Pumphrey represents fraternity member Luke Kluttz. He says the prosecution has been misled about Andrew Coffey’s past with drinking.

“I don’t believe the elected state attorney had knowledge based upon what the family had given him, and law enforcement, that this young man had a binge drinking problem,” Pumphrey said.

Coffey’s former high school classmate and roommate while attending Florida State, Kelsey Lunde, was questioned by defense attorneys in front of the State Attorney this week. Pumphrey says information that came forward during Lunde’s deposition points to a pattern of heavy drinking before becoming a pledge, as far back as high school.

According to Pumphrey, Lunde claims he knew of a conversation between Coffey and his mother indicating she was concerned about Coffey’s developing drinking problem.

“We also have sworn testimony from Kelsy Lunde, who was his best friend and roommate, that his mother was very concerned with his serious drinking problem,” Pumphrey said.

Brian Tannebaum is the attorney for Anthony Petagine, another of the nine defendants. He says the information put forward in Lunde’s deposition is “explosive.”

“What we have here is a situation where the grand jury was told that Andrew Coffey had no prior history of substance abuse,” Tannebaum said. “Now, even with knowing that, they chose not to charge anybody in this case with any criminal offense – this was done by the state attorney. And what I found interesting is, I was at the deposition of Mr. Lunde, where he walked in and was introduced for the first time to the state attorney.”

Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell in March offered plea deals to the nine defendants, which was outed by a public records request by the Tallahassee Democrat.

The deals would see the nine men plead down to misdemeanor charges. They would serve 60 days in either jail or a jail work camp, followed by probation. Tannebaum says the evidence that has surfaced this week may cause some defendants to reconsider.

“If I was a defendant taking a plea, and I learned of this, I would reconsider going in and taking a plea,” Tannebaum said.

Meanwhile, Tannebaum likens the case to the bogus allegations made in 2006 against members of the Duke Lacrosse team, which led to a highly-publicized rape trial.

“I believe this is the Duke Lacrosse case of Tallahassee. I believe that these nine defendants did nothing criminal,” Tannebaum said.

The alleged conversation between Coffey and his mother stands in contrast to a written answers given by Coffey’s parents to interrogatories filed this week in their civil lawsuit against Pi Kappa Phi. Asked if they knew of any prior incidents where their son had passed out or thrown up from drinking, Coffey’s parents said they know of none.

In their civil suit, the Coffey family claims the fraternity’s culture of hazing led to Andrew Coffey’s death. David Bianchi is the attorney representing the Coffey family in that civil case. He says the defense is using a tactic he feels is common when a victim is involved.

“This is nothing more than what we see every time the defense needs to come up with some excuse for what they did – they try to blame the victim,” Bianchi said.

State Attorney Jack Campbell, when asked about the new evidence, said he would not discuss the case.

After being contacted for comment, Campbell has filed a gag order prohibiting the defense from talking about facts of the case to media or others pre-trial. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, when several of the defendants are expected to enter their pleas.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.