12 face hearing in Penn State frat pledge’s fall death case

12 face hearing in Penn State frat pledge's fall death case
The Associated Press

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Members of a Penn State fraternity charged after the FBI was able to recover security camera footage from a basement bar area the night a pledge was fatally injured are headed to court for a preliminary hearing.

Twelve members of the shuttered Beta Theta Pi chapter face the Wednesday hearing that will determine if there’s enough evidence to send the charges to county court for trial.

They face charges related to the February 2017 death of 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, who fell several times and consumed a significant amount of alcohol at the house.

The hearing comes a day after the state attorney general’s office announced it was dropping the most serious allegations of involuntary manslaughter and assault against five of the 12.

WT:

A preliminary hearing began Wednesday for members of a Penn State fraternity charged after the FBI was able to recover security camera footage from a basement bar area the night a pledge was fatally injured last year.

A judge will decide if there’s enough evidence against 12 members of the shuttered Beta Theta Pi chapter to send the charges to county court for trial.

They face charges over the death of Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, who fell several times and consumed a significant amount of alcohol at the house in February 2017.

Eleven of them are accused of hazing and a variety of alcohol-related allegations and five are charged with reckless endangerment.

The 12th defendant, 21-year-old Braxton Becker of Niskayuna, New York, is accused of evidence tampering, obstruction and hindering apprehension.

Investigators said the recordings recovered by the FBI last fall showed Piazza had been given at least 18 drinks in 90 minutes.

A detective said in the arrest affidavit that hazing began with a fraternity member handing a bottle of vodka to the pledges, passed among them three times in five minutes.

Hazing activity that night, wrote State College Police Detective David Scicchitano, included “an obstacle course of drinking stations in which the pledges had to drink vodka fast, then shotgun a can of beer fast, and then chug from a winebag, and then drink a cup of beer if they missed a ping pong ball throw into the cup, and brothers taking alcohol up to pledges and having them chug.”

On Tuesday, the state attorney general’s office announced it was dropping the most serious allegations of involuntary manslaughter and assault, charges that five of the 12 had faced.

Security cameras recorded the hapless efforts by members of the fraternity to address Piazza’s dire condition.

Medical experts have said Piazza had a fractured skull and a shattered spleen, with massive internal bleeding and other injuries.

Fourteen fraternity members are awaiting trial after some charges against them were forwarded to common pleas court for trial after a pair of marathon preliminary hearings.

In those cases, prosecutors are attempting to have a judge reinstate dismissed charges of involuntary manslaughter against five of the 14. They also want to restore charges of reckless endangerment against six defendants, hazing against two and conspiracy against eight.

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