Penn State frat members cleared of felony charges in hazing death

The fraternity and 18 of its members were charged after the February 4 death of sophomore engineering student Tim Piazza, whose agonizing night in the fraternity house was caught on security camera, showing him clearly in pain after drinking heavily and suffering a series of falls.

The prosecutor failed to present enough evidence to support a trial for eight of the fraternity members on felony charges of aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, Centre County Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair found.

The preliminary hearing took seven days over the span of three months.

Prosecutors painted the fraternity brothers as pressuring their pledges to drink at risky levels, while defense attorneys said their various clients didn't know the full extent of what happened that night and Piazza wasn't forced to consume alcohol after the initial pledge ritual.

Attorneys for five members of now-closed Beta Theta Pi focused on what occurred during and after a drinking station gauntlet the night in February that 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, drank a risky amount of alcohol and was injured in a series of falls.

Two fraternity brothers who were charged with evidence-tampering - Ryan Foster and Ed Gilmartin - waived their right to this hearing, so their charges will proceed to trial.

"To say they could not foresee this as a unsafe event, is absolute incredulous", Parks Miller said during closing arguments.

Parks Miller said that they all played a role in the overall event that lead to Piazzas tragic death.

Timothy Piazza died on February 4, after participating in a fraternity hazing tradition two nights prior.

But Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller says Young was "in charge of the fraternity" and sent texts afterward indicating he was responsible.

Penn State shut down the Beta chapter permanently after an investigation into Piazza's death and the Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity suspended the group.

Piazza, 19, was in the Penn State frat house to attend a pledge bid acceptance ceremony when he consumed a unsafe amount of booze and fell down a large set of basement steps. More than 1,000 counts were levied against 18 Beta Theta Pi members, including eight who were charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Eighteen fraternity members and the fraternity itself face a range of charges.

Security camera footage from the since-closed Beta Theta Pi fraternity captured 19-year-old Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, falling several times in the hours after he and other pledges were run through a drinking gauntlet.

The 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, suffered severe head and abdominal injuries.


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