Eighteen members of a Penn State University fraternity face criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, after an intoxicated pledge fatally fell down a flight of stairs at hazing event, according to prosecutors.
Timothy Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering major from New Jersey, died Feb. 4, two days after he was injured while pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
He reportedly sustained traumatic brain injuries from several falls after partaking in a heavy drinking contest known as “the gauntlet,” and later fell head-first down 15 basement stairs around 11 pm, said the prosecutor.
He was found lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs when four members allegedly carried his limp body upstairs and placed him on a couch.
They failed to call for help until the next morning, but it was too late. Piazza later died at the hospital from multiple traumatic injuries.
Prosecutors claim the fraternity brothers’ recollection of the events that evening conflicted with surveillance footage and other evidence obtained during the investigation. Moreover, several different versions were relayed to police officials regarding how long it took them to call 911, said attorney Thomas Kline.
When asked about the footage recovered from the incident, Kline said, “This was in a fraternity house, but don’t mistake the fact of it being at a fraternity house for the chilling, numbing, facts, which are in this investigative report by the grand jury.”
“That video is shocking. It is numbing, described by the president of the university as inhumane and sickening, not my words but the president of Penn State,” he said. “The things that were captured on that video should not take place anywhere.”
“He was in a forced hazing ritual,” Kline added. “This fraternity and the culture on the Penn State campus which allowed this to take place should not take place in any university on any campus anywhere in America.”
The fraternity has been permanently banned from operating a chapter on the university’s campus.
The charges include aggravated assault, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and consumption of alcohol by a minor, said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. Eight of the brothers have also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and the fraternity has been charged. Ten other members were also charged in connection to his death.
The involuntary manslaughter counts carry a maximum punishment of 2-1/2 years to 5 years, while the aggravated assault counts, a first-degree felony, carry a maximum prison term of 10 years to 20 years.
“I’ve said this before: This didn’t have to happen,” Piazza’s father, Jim Piazza, said at a news conference after the charges were announced. “This is the result of a feeling of entitlement, flagrant disobedience of the law and disregard for moral values that was then exacerbated by egregious acts of self-preservation. Again, this did not have to happen.”
— Abby Drey (@ADreyPhotos) May 5, 2017
Timothy Piazza— victim in PSU fraternity hazing case — died after falling down stairs following forced drinking pic.twitter.com/ZrbdoZwUiP
— 🅱eau 🅱erman (@BeauWTAE) May 5, 2017
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