October 22, 2014

Parents of Hartsville football player file wrongful death lawsuit

Ronald Rouse (Image: Facebook)

Ronald Rouse (Image: #TeamRonald Rouse/Facebook)

The family of a Hartsville High School football player who died during an October 2012 game has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

WPDE-TV reports the lawsuit claims Ronald Rouse had fainted the previous summer and a physical listed him with a very high blood pressure for an 18-year-old. But the lawsuit claims neither Rouse nor his parents were ever told about the high blood pressure being an issue and the physical was never referred to the family’s physician.

Rouse collapsed during a Hartsville game on October 5, 2012 and died a few minutes later of complications from an enlarged heart.

The suit by Columbia attorney S. Randall Hood also names the Lake Robinson Rescue Squad, which had previously agreed to have paramedics at all Hartsville home football games that season. However, the rescue squad was not present the night Rouse died. When Rouse collapsed on the field, a Hartsville trainer was able to revive him. But the lawsuit states the senior fell a second time while returning to the sidelines and did not get up again. The rescue squad arrived at the game nine minutes after someone called 911.

The South Carolina Board of Education and South Carolina High School League are also named in the suit, as Rouse’s parents claim both bodies failed to enforce policies and procedures which could have saved their son’s life.

The lawsuit argues the Darlington County School Board created a culture of winning at all costs, by allowing Rouse to play in an athletic contest dangerous to his health and having employees who did not follow safety guidelines.

Former SC State attorney sentenced for role in kickback scheme

Image: SC State University

Edwin Givens

A judge on Thursday sentenced a former South Carolina State University staff attorney to six months probation after the attorney admitted knowing about a kickback scheme at the school.

Former SC State general counsel Edwin Givens, 51, of Columbia had earlier pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony. Federal prosecutors said Givens cooperated with them after they began investigating the actions of then Board of Trustees chair Jonathan Pinson. Prosecutors have previously said Pinson arranged for a Greenville business to receive a contract for a homecoming concert at the school in exchange for a share of the profits. The business We Entertainment was run by Pinson’s business partner Eric Robinson.

In exchange, prosecutors say Pinson and Givens were to receive $2,000 and 50 percent of the concert’s profits. However, investigators have previously said Givens only received $500, which he donated to the school’s foundation even before he knew the contract was being investigated.

Givens testified against Pinson in the ex-trustee’s trial this summer. A jury found Pinson guilty on 29 public corruption counts in July. The jury found Robinson not guilty.

Prosecutors said Givens had actual knowledge of the commission of a federal felony offense involving the solicitation, receipt and payment of kickbacks by others involved with the concert. The U.S. Attorney’s Office previously said it linked Givens to the scheme through wiretapped phone calls with Pinson. Investigators say Givens did not tell law enforcement about the plan and even took steps to conceal the information from federal law enforcement agents investigating the scheme until an FBI interview in November 2011.

Givens’ law license was suspended after he pleaded guilty in May.




Investigators: Clemson student fell behind during pledge run shortly before death


Tucker Hipp (Facebook)

Tucker Hipp (Facebook)

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday it had conducted 50 interviews related to the death of Tucker Hipps.

The 19-year-old Clemson student was found dead underneath two bridges over Lake Hartwell on Monday. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office said Hipps died from head injuries, likely due to a fall from the bridge.

Sheriff’s office investigators now say they’ve learned Hipps was among 30 people taking part in a fraternity pledge run around 5:30 a.m. that morning. Authorities are saying that Hipps dropped behind during the run and none of his fellow fraternity  brothers or pledges saw him fall. Clemson said the fraternity called campus police after Hipp did not return from the run that morning.

“Given the fact that it is an ongoing investigation, certainly we do know the reasons why (Hipps fell behind),” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Watt said. “But because of the investigation, we’re not going to release that at this time.”

The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity has come under increased public scrutiny after Hipps’ body was found, with some students even claiming on social media that hazing caused his death. However, Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said Tuesday there was “no indication” that “hazing played any part” in the death.

But Clemson did suspend all fraternity initiation activities on Tuesday night, citing Hipps’ death and several other incidents of criminal activity ranging from underage drinking to sexual assault.

Hipps was a sophomore at the school, having transferred to Clemson this semester from a bridge program at Tri-County Technical College.

Clemson suspends all fraternity initiation activities

Courtesy: Clemson University

Courtesy: Clemson University

Clemson University officials said late Tuesday evening that they have suspended all social and new-member initiation activities for 24 fraternities at the school, saying there had been “several” recent reports of violations of the law or student conduct code.

The move also came a day after a fraternity pledge was found dead underneath a bridge over Lake Hartwell. The Oconee County Coroner’s Office has said 19-year-old Tucker Hipps died from a head injury, likely after falling off the bridge. However, Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw has emphasized that there is “no indication” at this time that Hipps died as a result of fraternity hazing.

While Clemson officials referenced Hipps’ death, they did not give any direct link between it and illegal fraternity activities.

“It is especially prudent to suspend fraternity activities given the tragic death of Tucker Hipps. There has been a high number of reports of serious incidents involving fraternity activities, ranging from alcohol-related medical emergencies to sexual misconduct,” Student Affairs Vice President Gail DiSabatino said in a statement. “These behaviors are unacceptable and mandate swift and effective action to protect students. There is no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our students.”

The school said it had turned over any potential criminal issues to “appropriate law enforcement agencies.” Violations of the student code of conduct are being investigated by the university’s Office of Community and Ethical Standards.

Earlier this week, the Interfraternity Council voted to suspend activities. DiSabatino said student leaders would be involved as the school works to address the issues.

Coroner: Clemson student likely died after falling off bridge

Tucker Hipp (Facebook)

Tucker Hipps (Facebook)

Investigators now say they believe a Clemson student found dead on Monday had fallen off a bridge over Lake Hartwell.

The Oconee County Coroner’s Office said it appeared 19-year-old Tucker Hipps of Piedmont had died from a head injury at some point between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. His body was found by a Clemson University police officer underneath the Highway 93 bridge later that afternoon.

The discovery came a few hours after Hipps had been reported missing around 1:45 p.m. by members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. According to a statement from the school, Hipps did not return from an activity run with other members of his frat.

In his brief report, Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis said Hipps’ injury “is consistent with him falling from one of the spans which is approximately 20 to 23 feet above the water surface.” Addis said Hipps was found in about 4 or 5-feet deep water, with rip rap rock lining the bottom. The Highway 93 bridge is a main route connecting the Clemson campus with the western shore. The bridge has sidewalks and concrete walls that are about 3 feet high.

The coroner did not say if foul play is suspected, explaining that he was waiting on the results of the investigation and for a toxicology analysis.

Students at Clemson University are grieving the sophomore’s death. Many students wore orange in solidarity with the Hipps family.

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