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Assault, Manslaughter Charges Dismissed in Beta Theta Pi Case

by on September 01, 2017 12:20 PM

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A district judge has dismissed the most serious counts faced by former fraternity members in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza.

After a seven-day preliminary hearing spread out over the course of the summer, District Judge Allen Sinclair announced Friday morning that he was dismissing felony charges of aggravated assault and misdemeanor charges of involuntary manslaughter and simple assault against eight former members of Beta Theta Pi -- Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci, Gary DiBileo, Luke Visser and Joseph Sala.  An involuntary manslaughter charge against the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi also was dismissed.

District attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she intends to argue an error of law in Sinclair's decision and refile the manslaughter charges. She said she will also consider refiling some of the other dismissed charges as well.

The eight men still face some charges. Misdemeanor counts including hazing, recklessly endangering another person and furnishing alcohol to minors against each were bound over. Charges of hazing and furnishing alcohol against the chapter also were bound over.

Misdemeanor charges against four others were bound over as well. Three men who were facing single counts of tampering with evidence and another facing a count of reckless endangerment had their charges dismissed.

Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, N.J., died on Feb. 4 as a result of brain injuries and a ruptured spleen caused by falls he suffered during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance event and party at the Beta Theta Pi house the night of Feb. 2 and early morning of Feb. 3.

After participating in a pledge event called "the gauntlet," a series of drinking stations where pledges consumed beer, wine and vodka in rapid succession, and consuming alcohol at a social event that followed, Piazza fell head-first down the basement stairs at 11:22 p.m. 

Surveillance video showed Piazza falling several more times throughout the night, and he was found unresponsive in the basement the next morning. A fraternity member called 911 at 10:48 a.m. on Feb. 3 and Piazza was eventually transported to Hershey Medical Center, where he died on Feb. 4.

The prosecution has argued that fraternity members' actions of hazing and supplying alcohol, and the delay in calling for medical help, led to Piazza's death. Defense attorneys countered that their clients played limited or no roles in the events and that they had no intent to harm and no reasonable expectation the activities could result in death 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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