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Former Fraternity Brother Pleads to Negotiated Alcohol Charges in Piazza Case

by on August 30, 2018 10:00 AM

A former Beta Theta Pi fraternity brother pleaded guilty on Thursday to two alcohol-related charges in the Penn State fraternity hazing case stemming from the death of pledge Timothy Piazza.

Bo Han Song, 20, of Wayne, Pa., entered a guilty plea on Thursday to two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, charges that were negotiated with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General. After a preliminary hearing in May, Song was bound over on three counts of hazing and four alcohol charges. Senior Deputy Attorney General Andrew Notaristefano said those charges will be dropped.

Centre County Judge Brian Marshall ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and deferred sentencing to a date to be determined.

Song is the third Beta Theta Pi member to enter a plea and the first to plead to charges negotiated with the AG's office. He entered an open plea, however, meaning the prosecution has made no deal on a sentencing recommendation for the third-degree misdemeanor charges.

“The guilty plea of Bo Han Song is one more step in a long road towards justice for the parents of Tim Piazza,” Tom Kline, attorney for Jim and Evelyn Piazza, said in an email.

Song's attorney, John Sughrue, declined immediate comment.

The plea is a long way from what Song initially faced when he was charged in November 2017, after the recovery of deleted basement surveillance video from the Feb. 2, 2017 bid acceptance night and party at Beta Theta Pi. 

Song provided Piazza with his final drink of the night, holding up a bottle of vodka for Piazza to drink from during the basement party that followed the fraternity initiation event. He also provided alcohol to another pledge.

The drink Song gave to Piazza was one of 18 the 19-year-old sophomore was given by fraternity brothers in a period of 82 minutes, during an alcohol "gauntlet" as part of pledge initiation and the party that followed. After his final drink, Piazza went to the first floor and a short time later fell head-first down the basement stairs. Fraternity members did not call for help until the following morning, nearly 12 hours after the fall. Piazza died on Feb. 4 as a result of non-recoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen.

After the recovery of video depicted who provided alcohol to Piazza and other pledges, Song was among those charged by former Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller with aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, as well as the hazing and alcohol charges.

The attorney general's office withdrew the involuntary manslaughter and assault charges after it took over the case in January. District Judge Steven Lachman dismissed the reckless endangerment charges after a preliminary hearing in May.

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.

Twenty other defendants still face charges in the case. A trial for most of them is scheduled for February 2019.

 



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