Some Assault, Manslaughter Charges Dropped in Beta Theta Pi Case
March 15, 2018 3:33 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has dropped felony aggravated assault charges and some involuntary manslaughter charges that were dismissed and then refiled last fall against eight former members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza.

Prosecutors will continue to pursue refiled charges of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter against five of the fraternity brothers, along with a host of other counts in the case that numbers 26 defendants in total facing multiple charges.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo filed a notice on Thursday to clarify the Commonwealth's position on pending charges for 14 defendants in the case. The attorney general's office took over the case in January at the request of new Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna, who cited an unspecified conflict of interest.

All charges against the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi, which included hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors, were withdrawn and misdemeanor charges of simple assault against eight defendants were also dropped.

The notice filed Thursday did not address new charges of assault and involuntary manslaughter filed in November against five other defendants after video from the fraternity basement was recovered and yielded new evidence.

The attorney general's office has been reviewing the case since taking over and that review is continuing.

“We will seek justice for the Piazza family," Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. "My office is committed to holding every responsible individual accountable for their actions, consistent with the law and the evidence in this case.

“Our review is ongoing. These charges represent one part of our investigation, and we will have further information to release as our review moves forward.”

Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore, died on Feb. 4, 2017 after falling multiple times and sustaining brain injuries and internal bleeding during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance event at Beta Theta Pi fraternity house. 

Following a preliminary hearing that took place over the course of last summer, District Judge Allen Sinclair bound over some of the charges against 18 members and the fraternity chapter, but dismissed the most serious charges, including felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, along with others.

In October, former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled a number of those charges, including assault and manslaughter charges against eight of the defendants, as well as other counts, including recklessly endangering another person and some of the hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors charges. 

A preliminary hearing on those refiled charges is set to begin on March 22.

In addition to counts already held for court following the first preliminary hearing, the document filed on Thursday said the state will proceed on the following charges:

- Brendan Young: One count of involuntary manslaughter; 29 counts of hazing; 29 counts of recklessly endangering another person (REAP); two counts of conspiracy to commit hazing.

- Daniel Casey: One count of involuntary manslaughter; 29 counts of hazing; 29 counts of REAP; two counts of conspiracy to commit hazing.

- Joseph Sala: 14 counts of REAP; 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors; 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor; one count of conspiracy to commit hazing,

Michael Bonatucci: Nine counts of REAP; one count of conspiracy to commit hazing; two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors; two counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor.

Nicholas Kubera: Eight counts of REAP; one count of conspiracy to commit hazing, one count of furnishing alcohol to minors; one count of unlawful acts relative to liquor.

- Jonah Neuman: One count of conspiracy to commit hazing; one count of involuntary manslaughter; 11 counts of REAP

Gary Dibileo: One count of involuntary manslaughter; one count of conspiracy to commit hazing; five counts of furnishing alcohol to minors; five counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

- Luke Visser: One count of involuntary manslaughter; one count of conspiracy to commit hazing; 11 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors; 11 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

- Lars Kenyon: One count of conspiracy to commit hazing; 14 counts of REAP; one count of furnishing alcohol to minors; one count of unlawful acts relative to liquor

-  Michael Angelo Schiavone: One count of conspiracy to commit hazing; 13 counts of REAP; 12 counts furnishing alcohol to minors; 12 counts unlawful acts relative to liquor.

- Parker Jax Yochim: One count of conspiracy to commit hazing; 14 counts of REAP; one count of furnishing alcohol to minors; one count of unlawful acts relative to liquor; one count of consumption of alcohol by a minor.

The notice also said prosecutors intend to proceed with charges already bound over for trial against Ed Gilmartin (tampering with evidence), Ryan Foster (tampering with evidence), and Craig Heimer (REAP, furnishing, unlawful acts relative to liquor and hazing.

Tom Kline, attorney for Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn, said the family is pleased that involuntary manslaughter charges are proceeding.

"The parents  of Timothy Piazza are most pleased to see the reinstatement now by a second prosecutor of involuntary manslaughter charges," Kline said. "With hundreds of charges against 26 individuals facing serious jail time, thePiazzas remain hopeful that justice will be accomplished and support the Pennsylvania Attorney General in this nationally important prosecution."

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