BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An ex-fraternity brother accused in the fatal hazing of Max Gruver deleted hundreds of files from his cell phone after finding out he would have to turn it over as evidence, prosecutors allege.
Matthew Naquin, who is facing a negligent homicide charge after Gruver died from alcohol poisoning, will be charged with obstruction of justice during his trial that begins July 8. The state filed a motion Friday, June 28 that claims nearly 700 files went missing 45 minutes after Naquin learned investigators had issued a search warrant for his phone.
The FBI unlocked Naquin’s phone after months of back and forth between prosecutors and his defense attorney, John McLindon, over whether the state could force Naquin to hand over his password if investigators could not unlock it themselves.
District Attorney Hillar Moore called the obstruction allegations “significant.”
“It’s critical to us because everyone operates using their cell phone, regardless of what business you’re in, whether for good or bad reasons,” he said. “A substantial amount of information was deleted from the phone, and we’re just trying to figure out what was deleted.”
It may be possible to recover some of the files, though Moore said metadata shows the phone may have been wiped by an app called “CCleaner” on Nov. 8, 2017.
During the same hearing, the state threw out its own grand jury indictment that charged Naquin with negligent homicide. Instead, the state is charging Naquin using a bill of information, which makes virtually no difference in the case.
McLindon had filed a motion to quash the grand jury indictment because of the glitch in the East Baton Rouge jury selection system that excluded potential jurors younger than 26 years old.
“This case involved the jury examining a bunch of kids, all between the ages of 18 and 23, and there’s no one on that grand jury to consider that evidence,” McLindon said. “It was really unfair, so it’s probably a good idea to use bill of information.”
Moore said he is confident his grand jury indictment would have held up, but said he threw it out to avoid any potential delay in the case.
The judge also granted McLindon access to Gruver’s phone.
There will be at least one more pre-trial hearing before the trial begins July 8.
“All of the families want a resolution one way or the other,” Moore said. “So everybody needs this to be on with, just like every other case.”