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Missouri bill would establish ‘Danny’s Law’ to protect 911 callers in hazing incidents

The ornate interior of the Missouri State Capitol building.
Eddie Brady/Getty Images
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The ornate interior of the Missouri State Capitol building.

Pausing to take a breath, Sarah Love, a University of Missouri senior, held back tears as she recounted the story of Danny Santulli, a former MU student.

Santulli, who was starting his freshman year of college in fall 2021, was a pledge for the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, commonly referred to as Fiji. As part of the initiation process, he and several other freshmen were allegedly forced to drink copious amounts of alcohol, which led to Santulli losing his ability to walk, talk and see.

“If this law existed on Oct. 19, 2021, Danny could have very well been here, enjoying his last two years of college today,” Love said.

Love’s testimony was offered in support of House Bill 1443, which would guarantee immunity from prosecution to anyone who is the first to call 911 or campus security when someone is in need of medical assistance due to a hazing incident.

HB 1443, if passed in its current form, would also require the person calling for medical assistance to give their name, stay on-site with the injured person and fully cooperate with law enforcement and medical personnel.

The bill received a public hearing in the state House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee on Thursday.

HB 1443 emerged out of a desire to ensure that anyone who is injured because of hazing while joining a fraternity gets medical help without fear of prosecution, said Rep. Travis Smith, a Republican from Douglas County and the bill’s sponsor.

“Because of hazing laws right now that we have, the way they have it set up, no one called 911,” Smith said of the incident involving Santulli. “Today, unfortunately, because no one called 911, this young man is incapacitated and will need life-long care.”

Some legislators voiced concern that the protection from prosecution wouldn’t apply to others involved once someone else calls emergency services. They discussed changes that could be made to the bill to ensure protections to anyone who tries to help someone injured as a result of hazing.

“Two people are there that started this, one of them is the one that makes the phone call, the other one does CPR,” said Rep. Barry Hovis, a Whitewater Republican. “The one that made the phone call is the one that gets the exemption out, the one that does CPR to try to save his life does not. We could probably find a better way to do that.”

Santulli sustained brain damage as a result of the incident. His blood alcohol content level was 0.486%, six times the legal driving limit, which led to cardiac arrest and damaged his occipital cortex. He went home to recover with his parents in Minnesota.

University officials shut down Fiji in the aftermath of the hazing incident. Eleven people were charged, ranging from alcohol-related misdemeanors to felony hazing. Several accepted plea deals, pleading guilty to lesser charges and serving short shock detention periods in jail.

The Santulli family settled civil lawsuits with 23 defendants. MU disciplined 13 unnamed students, including suspensions and expulsions, according to previous Missourian reporting.

“As the mother of three college-age men, I understand this is a major issue,” said Rep. Jo Doll, a Democrat from St. Louis. “It’s really important to give kids the ability to call 911 without being afraid of the consequences to them.”

This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian