5 TCU Students Face Criminal Charges Following a Tragic Boating Accident
From a legal perspective, this next case demonstrates the importance of a carefully orchestrated criminal defense strategy. In 2019, 12 Texas Christian University students were involved in a tragic boating accident on Lake Travis that left one person dead. What should have been a fun day on the lake quickly evolved into every parent’s worst nightmare when Jack Elliott, 19 at the time, disappeared into the water upon falling off the 22-foot boat. Jack’s body was recovered 10 days later more than 100 feet below the surface. When questioned by the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, the surviving passengers struggled to get their stories straight. During the investigation, the teens invoked their fifth amendment right to remain silent in an attempt to avoid incriminating themselves. However, the truth would eventually prevail.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Uncovers the Real Story Behind Jack’s Death
In 2020, Jack’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit that would require each of the passengers to testify under oath. It was then that the real story began to unfold. In reality, Jack did not fall from the boat. He was pushed.
During the wrongful death case, a witness revealed that Delaney Brennan and Jack were flirting and kissing when she gave him a ‘playful shove’ causing him to fall overboard, hit the propeller, and drown.
In a panic, the other passengers on the vessel began to destroy evidence of underage drinking by dumping the alcohol overboard. False statements given to responding officers left many unanswered questions regarding what really happened to Jack.
Although the wrongful death lawsuit was settled privately outside of court in 2021, a Travis County grand jury opted to indict five of the TCU students in connection with Elliot‘s death. The charges range from felony tampering with evidence, to misdemeanor charges of giving false evidence to a police officer, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and perjury.
Telling The Truth
In this case, telling the truth was both the right thing to do AND the best criminal defense strategy. A young person’s entire future was at stake with zero evidence of malicious intent. Attorney John H. Nix advised his client to be honest and forthcoming. As a result, the young person avoided facing criminal charges despite being a passenger on the boat.