Two More Beta Theta Pi Brothers Plead Guilty in Penn State Fraternity Hazing Case
Two former Beta Theta Pi brothers pleaded guilty on Thursday to misdemeanor charges stemming from the investigation into the 2017 death of fraternity pledge and Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.
Gary A. DiBileo II, 22, of Scranton, and Aidan M. O'Brien, 21, of West Chester, became the seventh and eighth defendants in the case to enter guilty pleas.
DiBileo pleaded guilty to six counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy to commit hazing. O'Brien pleaded to one count of furnishing alcohol to minors. All of the charges are third-degree misdemeanors.
O'Brien entered his plea immediately following DiBileo, both before Centre County Judge Brian Marshall. Both waived their rights to be sentenced within 90 days and sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
DiBileo and O'Brien each had faced a long list of charges, some of which were previously dismissed or dropped and others which will be dropped in concert with the guilty pleas. Both men were seen of fraternity house surveillance video of giving bags of wine to Piazza and DiBileo was seen giving the wine to five other pledges during "the gauntlet," a series of alcohol drinking stations that were part of the bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017.
Investigators have said Piazza was given 18 drinks in 82 minutes during the initiation event and basement party that followed before he fell head-first down the basement stairs. Piazza sustained a series of other falls throughout the night and paramedics were not called until the following morning, nearly 12 hours after his fall down the stairs. He died on Feb. 4 as a result of brain injuries, head trauma and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen, according to a medical examiner.
O'Brien initially was charged with more serious crimes of aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter and simple assault, which were withdrawn by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office when it took over the case earlier this year. He also had charges of recklessly endangering another person, hazing and additional counts of furnishing dismissed after a preliminary hearing. Remaining counts of hazing and furnishing will be dropped.
During O'Brien's guilty plea on Wednesday, his attorney, Karen Muir said her client knew Piazza was under the age of 21 when he furnished the wine. She then added she was not confident that he knew, but "for the purposes of the legal fiction of this plea," she would stipulate that he did.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo, the chief prosecutor in the case, took exception to Muir's use of the term "legal fiction." After a hushed but animated conversation between the two attorneys, the plea proceeded.
DiBileo also was originally charged with assault and involuntary manslaughter, counts that were dismissed after a preliminary hearing in 2017. He also was charged with multiple counts of recklessly endangering another person and furnishing, as well as eight other counts of hazing, all of which will be dropped.
Fraternity member Greg Rizzo, who was not charged in the case, told police that both he and DiBileo advocated to other brothers to call for medical help for Piazza after he fell down the steps and was carried up to the first floor.
In text messages from Feb. 3 and 4, recovered by police, DiBileo and Rizzo wrote that they wanted to get Piazza help that night.
"We tried our best to get him to the hospital," DiBileo wrote. "Wish people listened."
In further messages, DiBileo and Rizzo both indicated that they wished they had pushed harder to call 911. Another message from Rizzo said that it seemed that when Piazza was on the couch as if he had just had too much to drink, and DiBileo wondered if Piazza's falls in the early morning hours when no one was with him made his condition worse.
Ryan Burke, Joseph Ems, and Bo Han Song pleaded guilty over the summer to various misdemeanor charges. Michael Angelo Schiavone, Patrick Jackson and Jonathan Kanzler pleaded guilty to alcohol-related misdemeanors in October.
Four others -- Ryan Foster, Ed Gilmartin, Reginald Goeke, Craig Heimer -- were accepted in September into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program.
At least 10 defendants in the case are scheduled for three separate trials in 2019. Trial dates have not yet been scheduled for four others.