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Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

TAMPA — A Leon County judge sentenced the son of former Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin on Monday to 60 days in jail for a role in the November hazing death of a 20-year-old Florida State University student.

Christopher Hamlin, 20, was one of five Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers to accept a plea deal, admitting to misdemeanor hazing in connection with the death of Andrew Coffey, a 20-year-old fraternity pledge member who died of alcohol poisoning at a frat party on Nov. 3.

The five were among nine fraternity members initially arrested on felony hazing charges, which carried a possible sentence of five years in prison.

A trial for the four who declined the deal is scheduled for June, according to Leon County court records. Among that group is Anthony "AJ" Oppenheimer, 21, of Wesley Chapel. He is the son of Damon Oppenheimer, vice president and director of amateur scouting for the New York Yankees minor league organization in Tampa.

Hamlin, of Valrico, and three others who took the deal will serve 60 days in jail. Frat member Conner Ravelo will spend only 30 days in jail because of his cooperation in the case, court records said.

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Once released, all five men must serve two years on probation. During that period, the men will be required to attend anti-hazing classes, speak publicly about hazing and write an apology letter to Coffey’s family, which filed a civil suit in February against Pi Kappa Phi and the nine fraternity members charged in connection with their son’s death.

Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty confirmed that Hamlin is the son of Assistant Chief Marc Hamlin, who retired Friday after 28 years in the department. His retirement was planned and had nothing to do with his son’s legal troubles, Hegarty said.

Through Hegarty, Marc Hamlin declined to comment. Christopher Hamlin is a graduate of Jesuit High School in Tampa and is a junior at FSU studying finance.

The Leon County Medical Examiner’s office determined that Coffey, who was also a junior at FSU, had a blood alcohol level of 0.447 percent when he died of alcohol poisoning on Nov. 3. (For comparison, drivers are presumed impaired at 0.08 percent.) Another pledge found Coffey unresponsive in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house that morning, court records said. But instead of calling 911 immediately, the man spent 11 minutes calling other frat members first, court records said.

As a Pi Kappa Phi marshal, Hamlin was the leader of Coffey’s pledge class. Tallahassee police said Hamlin didn’t even attend the "Big Brother Night" frat party where Coffey drank himself to death, but investigators said he helped plan the event and directed the pledges to attend.

Hamlin "indirectly pressured or coerced the underage pledges to consume alcohol at the party in keeping with the tradition of the big-little celebration," a Tallahassee Police Department report said, and his acts "created influence which was extended to the pledge class despite not being in attendance."

Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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