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Fraternity, 18 members charged in Penn State student's death

06 May 2017

The February incident prompted the university to ban the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and launch an aggressive crackdown on campus-wide Greek Life, enacting harsher supervision and a wave of restrictions affecting all fraternities and sororities at the university.

-Following a three-month long investigation the Centre County District Attorney announced Friday that Beta Theta Pi and 18 people have been charged in connection to the death of Pennsylvania State University student Timothy Piazza.

Overnight, Piazza took several other falls including a second one down the basement stairs where he would remain for hours before the fraternity members discovered him in the morning, Parks Miller said. Police say he laid in the house for about 12 hours before anyone called for help.

"Text messages and a chat group called "we f- moms" revealed members allegedly asking about buying alcohol, including for pledges, and collecting money for their so-called 'slush fund, '" reported NBC which added that "during the pledge night event, the recruits were required to drink various types of alcohol at stations as part of a contest known as 'the gauntlet'".

Eight of the fraternity members are facing the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter.

"Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity has clearly and consistently expressed its position that it does not tolerate hazing or alcohol abuse in any form by its members", said Jim Ewbank, counsel for the international fraternity.

Piazza's obit says he was a sophomore engineering student at Penn State University, "where he was on the executive board of AYUDA, a special interest organization benefiting the Penn State Dance Marathon (THON)".

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Beta Theta Pi is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor. He's later shown trying unsuccessfully to open the front door, then "severely staggering drunkenly toward the basement steps" at about 10.45pm, the grand jury report said. "It is numbing how an atmosphere that endangers the well-being and safety of another person could occur within an organization that prided itself on commitment to each other and to its community".

The grand jury report concluded that "the severity of Timothy Piazza's condition was obvious and noticed by the fraternity brothers and pledges around him that evening".

The fraternity says members were "well educated" on its policy of not tolerating hazing or alcohol abuse "but they are entitled to the presumption of innocence as they face these charges". He had fallen on February 2, and was left on a couch for almost 12 hours before help was called. Later, Piazza tried to stand but fell, hitting his head on the floor.

Two years ago, prosecutors charged 37 members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity at Baruch College in NY in the hazing death of 19-year-old freshman Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng.

Nine members of the fraternity are expected to surrender to police for arraignment at the Centre County Court House at 2 p.m. Kamerow calculated that when he fell down the stairs, Piazza had a blood alcohol content of 0.36 percent, a life-threatening level.

Appearing at a press conference with Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, Piazza's father James said his son's death was "a senseless and very preventable tragedy" that "did not have to happen".

No further stations were captured, but by about 10:31 p.m. the video reportedly showed the pledges returning from the basement showing visible signs of intoxication. That will occur for the other defendants next week, Miller said. He fell onto a stone floor at 5 a.m. and was last caught on video after 7 a.m. "His chest was bare, his breathing heavy and he had blood on his face".

Fraternity, 18 members charged in Penn State student's death