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Piazza Attorney: 'This Is No Day for Celebration for Anyone'

by on September 01, 2017 4:48 PM

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Jim and Evelyn Piazza were once again in the Centre County Courthouse on Friday, as they had been the previous seven days of this summer's preliminary hearing for the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity members charged in connection with the death of their son, Timothy.

After District Judge Allen Sinclair announced his decision to dismiss some of the most serious charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, against some of the defendants, they sat in the courthouse's anteroom and cried, their attorney, Tom Kline said.

"They didn’t cry tears for the dismissal of higher charges," Kline said. "They cried tears for their son."

Some defense attorneys who spoke outside the courthouse after the decision was announced called Piazza's death a tragedy but expressed a sense of vindication and relief on behalf of their clients for the dismissal of some charges.

"This is no day for celebration for anyone," Kline said. "This is a day to remember Tim Piazza tragically died in a fraternity house. If there is a headline to be written about today, in my personal belief it’s that 14 individuals are bound over on serious charges and will face trial."

Those 14, as well as the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, still face a mix of misdemeanor charges that include recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and tampering with evidence.

Kline said those remain serious charges, some of which carry a year to two years in prison on each count if convicted.

"Let’s not lose focus in saying this was some kind of victory, some kind of celebratory event for defendants," Kline said.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller has pledged to refile involuntary manslaughter charges and other counts, and Kline said the Piazzas are supportive of that. The charges that were bound over, however, still serve to push the case forward.

The Piazzas take no joy in charges being bound over, Kline said, but want to see justice and meaning come from Piazza's death.

"What gives them satisfaction is knowing that their son’s death can be meaningful and that meaning will come from seeing justice," he said. "Justice will mean more than punishment it will mean deterrence as well."

The Piazza's 19-year-old son died on Feb. 4 after suffering brain injuries and internal bleeding resulting from multiple falls at the Beta Thea Pi house during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance night for fraternity pledges. The night of the event on Feb. 2 into the morning of Feb. 3 was captured in extensive detail on surveillance video footage.

Kline said the case should be about bringing an end to hazing and bad behavior at fraternities everywhere.

"This case is about when is it going to stop in America, the craziness, the permisiveness, the excessiveness, the debauchery, the depravity that goes on in a fraternity house like we saw on the video tape," he said.

The Piazzas, meanwhile, were returning to their Lebanon, N.J. home on Friday afternoon, thinking about their son who should have been starting his junior year at Penn State.

"They’re going to go home and give a lot more thought about their son who cannot attend the Penn State football game this weekend because he died," Kline said.

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