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Fifth Former Beta Theta Pi Brother Scheduled to Plead Guilty

by on September 13, 2018 12:17 PM

A former Beta Theta Pi member is scheduled to become the fifth defendant to enter a guilty plea in the Penn State fraternity hazing case.

Aidan M. O'Brien, 21, of West Chester will plead guilty on Dec. 6 before Centre County Judge Brian Marshall, according to court records.

O'Brien had one count of hazing, two counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor and one summary offense of consumption of alcohol by a minor held for trial following a preliminary hearing in May. Counts of recklessly endangering another person, furnishing alcohol to minors and a second count of hazing were dismissed.

Available court documents do not specify to what charges O'Brien will plead guilty.

Following recovery of deleted surveillance video from the basement of the Beta Theta Pi house, O'Brien was among the second group of defendants charged in November 2017 in the case stemming from the death of fraternity pledge and Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

Investigators said the video showed O'Brien gave Piazza a can of beer and held up a bag of wine for Piazza to drink from during the party the followed a pledge initiation on Feb. 2, 2017. O'Brien was not alleged to have been involved with the "gauntlet," a series of drinking stations in which Piazza and 13 other pledges were encouraged to rapidly consume beer, wine and vodka as part of bid acceptance night

O'Brien's attorney, Peter Kratsa, argued at a preliminary hearing that there was no evidence Piazza drank the can of beer provided to him by O'Brien during the party. He also pointed to a statement given by one pledge to an investigator that a brother told them at the start of the party, “Now let’s have fun. You can get a drink if you want it.”

Fraternity brothers gave Piazza 18 drinks in a period of 82 minutes prior to his fall head-first down the basement stairs, according to investigators.

No one called for help until nearly 12 hours after Piazza's fall and the 19-year-old died on Feb. 4, 2017 as a result of non-recoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen.

O'Brien also was initially charged with counts of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and simple assault. Those charges were withdrawn by prosecutors from Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General after they took over the case in January.

In June, Ryan Burke was the first defendant in the case to enter a guilty plea, to four counts of hazing and five alcohol charges. Like Song, Burke was among the brothers who provided alcohol to Piazza. He was sentenced in July to three months house arrest, 27 months of probation, 100 hours of community service and fines.

Joseph Ems pleaded guilty on Aug. 8 to one count of hazing and one count of unlawful acts relative to liquor. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 27. Ems provided alcohol to a pledge, tipping back a bottle of vodka, but did not give alcohol to Piazza.

Bo Han Song pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors. Those charges were negotiated with the Office of Attorney General and three counts of hazing and four other alcohol charges were dropped. Song gave Piazza his final drink of alcohol and also provided vodka to another pledge. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Michael Angelo Schiavone is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Oct. 22. He had charges of recklessly endangering another person and hazing held for trial, though it is not known for which charges he will plead guilty.

A trial for the remaining defendants in the case is scheduled for February 2019.

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