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Former Beta Theta Pi Brother's Sentence Reduced to House Arrest

by on May 15, 2019 5:36 PM

A former Beta Theta Pi brother who was sentenced to jail time in the Penn State fraternity hazing case will instead receive house arrest. 

Luke Visser, 21, of Encinitas, Calif., was originally sentenced on April 2 to two months in jail, a $2,500 fine and 100 hours of community service guilty to to six counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy to commit hazing in the case stemming from the 2017 death of 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza.

After a motion filed by Visser's attorneys, however, Centre County Judge Brian Marshall on Wednesday vacated his ruling and imposed a sentence of 45 days of home confinement instead of two months in jail, according to defense attorney Theodore Simon.

"We are appreciative of the court’s willingness to  consider our arguments and thankful to the Court for its demonstration of judicial independence," Simon said in an email.

At Visser's initial sentencing, Marshall indicated that if Visser lived in Pennsylvania instead of California, he would have been sentenced to  house arrest as part of an Intermediate Punishment program, as some other defendants in the case received. In their motion to reconsider, Visser's attorneys presented several options for him to serve home confinement in California or Pennsylvania.

Two other defendants in the case, Joshua Kurczewski and Michael Bonatucci, had jail sentences changed to house arrest on similar grounds last month.

Visser's attorneys also argued that Marshall improperly imposed an aggravated sentence by relying on information related to charges that had already been dismissed or dropped.

The hazing charges Visser pleaded to were for operating the beer pong station during the "gauntlet," a series of drinking station in which pledges were encouraged to rapidly consume alcohol during bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017. None of those charges were specifically tied to Piazza, who consumed 18 drinks in 82 minutes before falling head first down the basement stairs. His condition worsened throughout the night. No one called for help until the following morning, and Piazza died of brain injuries and internal bleeding on Feb. 4.

At sentencing, however, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office presented information and video of conduct by Visser outside of those charges. Visser previously had charges including aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter dismissed. His attorneys also said some of the information presented by the Commonwealth at sentencing was inaccurate.

"Visser left 20 minutes after the fall and only thought Mr. Piazza had too much to drink and was not injured," his attorneys wrote, adding that Piazza was in the care of others when Visser left the house for the night.

Visser's sentence, his attorneys argued, was unduly harsh compared to his co-defendants. They also asked Marshall to take into consideration a shoulder injury Visser recently sustained which will require surgery and other health issues he has developed over the past two years.

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