Ryan Delanty, who served as Daniel Santulli’s “pledge dad” on the fateful night of the young man’s life-altering hazing incident, was charged by a grand jury with second-degree assault this past Friday in Columbia, MO—nearly two years to the day of Danny’s hazing.
The pledge dad is usually a senior member who wields significant social power over pledges. The coercive weight of an entire fraternity can often hang on their judgment. In Danny’s case, this meant being compelled to consume a whole bottle of liquor in a perilous hazing ritual known as “the family bottle.”
This new charge is added to Delanty’s existing charges of felony hazing and supplying liquor to a minor. This marks a key moment for the Santulli case and the entire conversation surrounding hazing on college campuses.
Up to Seven Years in Prison
The Class D felony charge of second-degree assault could mean up to seven years in prison for Delanty. This has the potential to serve as a long-overdue signal to fraternities that the consequences of hazing will not be trivial. Delanty’s arraignment for the superseding indictment is slated for November 6, and his trial will commence on December 5.
Attorney David Bianchi, who represents the Santulli family, sees this as a significant development.
“Delanty is at much greater risk because now he’s facing two felony charges, not just one plus the misdemeanor charge,” he said to ABC News. “So if he was convicted on all three of these charges, he could go to jail for a longer period of time.”
Missouri Law Tests Its Anti-Hazing Statute
Delanty was an orchestrator, so he bears more responsibility than any other fraternity member. But he didn’t act alone. The grand jury concluded that Delanty “recklessly caused serious physical injury” to Santulli, but six other defendants have taken plea deals with a maximum sentence of 30 days or less.
Is it enough? Is this justice? It’s high time we hold hazing perpetrators accountable for reckless actions that devastate lives. No more light sentences or slaps on the wrist.
Until we see Delanty and others like him held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, society at large continues to send the wrong message about hazing. We’ve been content to perpetuate this harmful culture. If we wish to prevent another Danny Santulli, the justice system, along with educational institutions, must enforce zero-tolerance policies in a meaningful way.
Delanty’s case may be a watershed moment for hazing cases in Missouri and potentially across the nation. We cannot rest until the legal system evolves to treat these crimes with the severity they warrant. The grievous harm inflicted upon the Santullis and countless other families deserves nothing less.