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Two More Former Beta Theta Pi Brothers Scheduled to Plead Guilty

by on September 24, 2018 10:50 AM

The number of former Beta Theta Pi brothers who will go to trial in the Penn State fraternity hazing case continues to dwindle.

Patrick Jackson, 22, of Bethlehem, and Jonathan Kanzler, 20, of Coopersburg, are scheduled to enter guilty pleas in October before Centre County Judge Brian Marshall, according to court records. It will make Jackson and Kanzler the sixth and seventh defendants to plead guilty in the case stemming from the death of 19-year-old fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.

Investigators said that surveillance video from the fraternity basement showed Kanzler, who is scheduled to plead guilty on Oct. 15, holding up a bag of wine for Piazza and another pledge to chug from during bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017. 

Jackson, who is scheduled to enter a plea on Oct. 6, is not accused of hazing or providing alcohol to Piazza. He allegedly provided vodka to two other pledges.

After a preliminary hearing in May, Kanzler had two counts of hazing, two counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor and one count of consumption of alcohol held for trial. A charge of recklessly endangering another person was dismissed. Charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were previously withdrawn.

Jackson had two counts of hazing and two counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor held for trial.

For both Kanzler and Jackson, two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors were added by information last week.

Court records do not indicate to which charges they will plead guilty. Another defendant who pleaded guilty in August, Bo Han Song, similarly had two furnishing counts added just prior to his plea. Song pleaded guilty to those two charges, which were negotiated with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, and had three counts of hazing and four other alcohol charges dropped. Song's sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. Like Kanzler, Song was accused of giving alcohol to Piazza and had more serious charges dismissed or withdrawn.

Jackson and Kanzler were among the second set of defendants charged after the recovery of deleted basement video footage from the night Piazza sustained fatal injuries after falling head first down the stairs. Prosecutors said prior to his fall, Piazza was given 18 alcoholic drinks in 82 minutes. No one called for help until nearly 12 hours after Piazza fell. He died on Feb. 4, 2017 as a result of non-recoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen.

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 Thursday. Ems provided alcohol to a pledge, tipping back a bottle of vodka, but did not give alcohol to Piazza.

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 court records do not indicate for which charges he will plead guilty.

Aidan O'Brien is scheduled to plead guilty on Dec. 6.  He had one count of hazing and three alcohol charges held for trial.

Four others -- Ryan Foster, Ed Gilmartin, Reginald Goeke, Craig Heimer -- were accepted earlier in September into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program. They will be required to be under a period of supervision and complete community service. If they complete the ARD program, they will be able to have charges expunged from their records.

Foster and Gilmartin both waived preliminary hearings last year for charges of tampering with evidence. Goeke had one count each of hazing and furnishing held for trial for allegedly giving alcohol to a pledge, but not Piazza. Heimer had 24 counts of furnishing bound over for allegedly being the fraternity member who purchased the alcohol for bid acceptance night.

Eleven defendants are still scheduled for trial in 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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