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Charges Filed Against Beta Theta Pi, 18 Members in Piazza Death

by on May 05, 2017 10:20 AM

Charges are being filed against Beta Theta Pi fraternity and 18 members of its former Penn State chapter following a three-month investigation by law enforcement and a Centre County grand jury into the death of student Timothy Piazza.

The fraternity corporation and eight members are charged with involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor. Members face charges  the same leveled against the fraternity, as well as aggravated assault, a felony, simple assault, tampering with evidence, and recklessly endangering another person.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced the charges Friday morning in Bellefonte. She was flanked by investigators from the State College Police Department and Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza as she read the charges and recounted some of the details of the circumstances surrounding Piazza’s death.

A 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, N.J., Piazza was attending a bid acceptance party at the fraternity house on North Burrowes Street. Parks Miller said Piazza was put through what fraternity members called “the gauntlet,” going from station to station and drinking “enormous amounts of liquor.”

The investigation found Piazza’s blood alcohol level was nearly .40. The intoxication led to Piazza falling down the stairs. Parks Miller said fraternity members viewed injuries on his stomach and head and put him on a couch.

Piazza fell again during the night and Parks Miller said he was "in dire need of help" but fraternity members waited 40 minutes after discovering him before calling for help. During that time members allegedly Googled "what to do for a head injury."

By the time he got to the hospital, it was too late. He had a non-recoverable brain injury, life-threatening spleen injury and other trauma.

Piazza died on Feb. 4 after being transported to Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Parks Miller credited the investigative work of State College Police. She said surveillance video in the house was critical to the investigation.

“It’s the story of this crime,” she said. “It captured a crime from beginning to end."

Beta Theta Pi corporation is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, 50 counts of hazing, 48 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors 48 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor.

Fraternity members Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci, Gary Dibileo, Luke Visser and Joe Sala were charged and were arraigned Friday afternoon in Bellefonte.

They each face charges of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor

Young and Casey also face charges of tampering with evidence.

Each was released on $100,000 unsecured bail.

Ten others are also facing charges, some of which Parks Miller said will be filed next week.

Michael Angelo Schiavone, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon and Parker Jax Yochim will each be charged with multiple counts of recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.

Ed Gilmartin, Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker and Ryan Foster will be charged with tampering with evidence, while Joseph Ems will be charged with recklessly endangering another person.

Heimer and Yochim were arraigned Friday in Bellefonte and released on $50,000 unsecured bail.

The grand jury alleged that after Piazza's death, some fraternity members made a concerted effort to destroy or withhold evidence of hazing and underage alcohol consumption. That allegedly included cleaning the house and removing evidence of alcohol and deleting GroupMe messages.

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