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DA Files New Charges in Connection with Piazza Death

by on November 13, 2017 1:55 PM

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller on Monday announced new charges against former members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity in connection with the February death of Penn State student and fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.

Police said that evidence, which was obtained from recovered fraternity house basement surveillance video allegedly deleted by one fraternity brother, shows Piazza was given at least 18 alcoholic drinks in a period of one hour and 22 minutes on the night of Feb. 2 as part of a fraternity bid acceptance night and social event.

Charges ranging from manslaughter and aggravated assault to hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors were filed against 12 new defendants and five already facing charges in the case. 

The new charges bring the total number of defendants in the case to 27.

Piazza died on Feb. 4 as a result of nonrecoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding. The 19-year-old from Lebanon, N.J. suffered multiple falls the night of Feb. 2 and morning of Feb. 3 at the fraternity house. A medical examiner estimated that at the time of his first fall head first down the basement stairs, Piazza's blood alcohol content would have been between .28 and .36.

Flanked by Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn, and investigators and assistant district attorneys, Parks Miller said the video, which was sent to the FBI over the summer and recovered in full, shows that Piazza never obtained his own drinks and that each was provided to him by a fraternity brother. Parks Miller declined to say whether the video showed Piazza falling down the steps.

She said the video showed a continuation of hazing involving an alcohol gauntlet depicted on video from the first floor of the house, portions of which were shown in court during a preliminary hearing over the summer. The video was allegedly deleted while State College Police were in the fraternity house in February following Piazza's death.

Braxton Becker, who had a different count of tampering with evidence dismissed after the preliminary hearing, is charged with allegedly deleting the basement video. He faces misdemeanor counts of tampering, obstructing administration of law and hindering apprehension. In testimony during the preliminary hearing, Det. David Scicchitano testified that police had been told the basement cameras were not working but that he became aware that video had instead been deleted.

Joshua Kurczewski, Ryan Burke, Jonathan Kanzler, Bohan Song and Aiden O'Brien were charged on Monday with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. They also were charged with hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor. 

“We believe…that people could see serious bodily injury and death from the culmination of this behavior,” Parks Miller said.

Eight others were initially charged with counts including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and simple assault. Those charges were dismissed on Sept. 1 after the preliminary hearing that spanned the course of the summer, but were refiled by Parks Miller in October.

Joseph Ems, who previously had one count of recklessly endangering another person dismissed after the preliminary hearing over the summer, was charged with hazing, furnishing and unlawful acts relative to liquor. Brian Gelb, Patrick Jackson, Reggie Goeke, Mike Fernandez and Donald Prior also face hazing, furnishing and liquor law charges.

Already facing other charges including involuntary manslaughter and assault, Luke Visser Gary DiBileo, Michael Bonatucci and Nick Kubera were charged Monday with multiple counts of furnishing and liquor law violations.

Parker Yochim, who already faces multiple counts of reckless endangerment, hazing and furnishing, was charged with additional counts of furnishing and liquor law violations.

Parks Miller said preliminary arraignments for the new charges are expected to take place on Nov. 28 and that she hopes for a preliminary hearing, joined with the refiled charges, will be held as soon as possible.

Watch the press conference in full below:

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