Penn State frat members cleared of felony charges in hazing death

02 September, 2017, 00:59 | Author: Ora Austin
  • Judge nearing decision on trial over Penn State frat death

A judge on Friday dismissed the most serious charges against members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity for their alleged roles in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore.

Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity chapter and 18 of its brothers faced more than 850 charges for Piazza's death after an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual in February.

Eighteen fraternity members and the fraternity itself face a range of charges, from involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault for some, to alcohol violations and hazing offenses for others.

Some of the former frat members may face reckless endangerment and hazing charges, and they will go to trial.

The grand jury report concluded that "the severity of Timothy Piazza's condition was obvious and noticed by the fraternity brothers and pledges around him that evening". Two defendants had waived the preliminary hearing.

"What we have is evidence from this record that this tragic death was simply not foreseeable here", said Engle, who represents defendant Gary DiBileo. The most serious charges against him were dismissed, but he is still charged with counts of hazing and furnishing alcohol. She said the Piazzas are "devastated" over the dismissed charges.

The lawyer for Brendan Young, who was chapter president the night in February when Piazza drank a risky amount and fell several times, argued Young saw nothing to make him think the pledge was at risk of dying. "We get a second shot, and we're absolutely going to take it".

Defense attorney Michael Engle argued that "the voluntariness of the drinking" is an important factor when considering Piazza's fate.

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District Judge Allen Sinclair said after the seventh day of a preliminary hearing ended Thursday that he would render his decision Friday at 11 a.m.

Parks Miller has been pursuing this case since investigations started in February after Piazza's death.

In the early morning hours, Piazza was pictured stumbling from the couch to other areas on the vast house's first floor, including falls into a door and onto a stone floor. He was in the Beta Theta Pi house the night in February that Piazza consumed a risky amount of alcohol during a hazing ritual and fell repeatedly, suffering fatal injuries. Help wasn't summoned until the next morning, and he later died at a hospital.

Piazza's parents watched the seven-day hearing from the gallery's front row, and left the courthouse without commenting.

"They cried tears, not for the verdict, but for their son", Kline said.

The fraternity's permit from the Interfraternity Council to serve alcohol that night did not absolve them, she said.

The lawyers also contended that the brothers had no intent to cause Piazza's death by serving alcohol to some minors or by running the drinking stations for the "gauntlet". He called the defendants' experience frightful and said they have been demonized.

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