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Former Beta Theta Pi Social Chairman Pleads Guilty in Piazza Case

by on October 22, 2018 10:10 AM

The former social chairman for Beta Theta Pi on Monday pleaded guilty to one charge and had 15 others dropped in the case stemming from the death of Penn State sophomore and fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.

Michael Angelo Schiavone, 23, of Clearwater, Fla., entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to furnish alcohol to minors, a third degree misdemeanor. As part of the plea, one count of recklessly endangering another person and 14 counts of hazing that were held for trial following a preliminary hearing in 20177 will be dropped. Additional refiled charges were dismissed after a preliminary hearing in March.

Schiavone is the sixth defendant in the case to enter a guilty plea. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13 and he will likely receive a fine.

During the spring 2017 semester, Schiavone was in charge of the Beta Theta Pi's so-called "slush fund" used to collect money for alcohol for fraternity events, including the bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017. That night, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza and 13 other pledges were put through "the gauntlet,"  a series of drinking stations in which they consumed beer, wine and vodka in rapid succession. The initiation was followed by a party in the fraternity's basement.

Investigators said Piazza was given 18 drinks in 82 minutes before he fell head-first down the basement stairs. Piazza died two days later as a result of non-recoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding caused by a shattered spleen.

At two preliminary hearings, the lead detective in the case testified that Schiavone was largely absent on surveillance video the night of Piazza's fall and did not participate in the gauntlet or the party. Schiavone's attorney, Marc Neff, also said that Schiavone doesn't drink alcohol, which he said showed drinking was not a prerequisite for being accepted into the fraternity.

Schiavone is the third defendant in the case in as many weeks to enter a guilty plea. Patrick Jackson and Jonathan Kanzler both pleaded guilty earlier this month to two counts each of furnishing alcohol to minor. 

Ryan BurkeJoseph Ems, and Bo Han Song pleaded guilty over the summer to various misdemeanor charges. Another former Beta Theta Pi member, Aidan M. O'Brien, is scheduled to plead guilty on Dec. 6. 

Four others -- Ryan Foster, Ed Gilmartin, Reginald Goeke, Craig Heimer -- were accepted in September into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program.

Eleven defendants currently are scheduled for trial in February 2019. Another, Braxton Becker, is awaiting another preliminary hearing on refiled charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction.

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