18 fraternity brothers charged in death of pledge at Penn State University
BELLFONTE, Pennsylvania (WPMT) -– 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.
Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey died February 4 at Penn State Hershey Medical Center after he fell down stairs at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house in State College during a party on February 2. He was a pledge at the fraternity.
Penn State has permanently banned Beta Theta Pi, citing evidence of hazing, forced drinking and other illegal activity.
Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci, Gary Dibileo, Luke Visser and Joe Sala are each charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor. Young and Casey are also charged with tampering with evidence.
Ten others are also facing charges; Michael Angelo Schiavone, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon, Parker Jax Yochim are each charged with recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor. Ed Gilmartin, Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker and Ryan Foster are each charged with tampering with evidence. Joseph Ems is charged with recklessly endangering another person.
The grand jury concluded that the brothers at Beta Theta Pi cultivated such a permissive atmosphere regarding excessive alcohol consumption, that Piazza's death was not an unfortunate accident, but was the direct result of encouraged reckless conduct that demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life, or a reckless interference to the possible consequences of such conduct.
Investigators say over 40 minutes elapsed before the fraternity called for help after they discovered Piazza was looking deathly ill the morning after the party. Following Piazza's death, authorities said fraternity brothers tried to destroy any evidence that would reveal what had been happening behind the doors of Beta Theta Pi.
The grand jury found evidence that Beta Theta Pi engaged in hazing, not just for Piazza's spring 2017 pledge class, but also previous pledge classes in spring and fall of 2016.
Investigators discovered in the fall 2016 pledge class, Beta Theta Pi subjected 29 pledges to forced physical calisthenics, sleep deprivation and excessive and severe alcohol consumption. The grand jury noted that every single pledge hazed was under the age of 21. In Piazza's spring 2017 pledge class, 12 students had not yet reached the legal drinking age and the grand jury said all were subjected to hazing.