Judge Tosses Out Serious Charges In Penn State Fraternity Death Case

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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A judge in central Pennsylvania dismissed involuntary manslaughter and other serious charges Friday against Penn State fraternity members, according to ABC.

Fourteen fraternity brothers are standing trial, and eight could have been imprisoned if they were convicted of the felony charges, which included aggravated assault. District Justice Allen Sinclair specifically threw out all of the felony charges, ABC reports. He did not provide any reasoning for the dismissal. All charges were thrown out against four of the defendants.

“Obviously now the teeth have really been taken out of the commonwealth’s case,” said Michael Engle, one of the defense attorneys. Now, barring any appeal, the strictest charges the men could face include unlawful hazing, violation of liquor laws, and reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said they plan on appealing because she and her team feels that the judge misunderstood the legal situation by treating each defendant as an individual, rather than basing it on the theory of accomplice liability, according to ABC.

Leonard Ambrose, another defense attorney for one of the fraternity members, said there was “no basis for most of the charges.”

The case centers on accusations that brothers of the now-defunct Beta Theta Pi house not only failed to help a pledge who was passed-out drunk, but helped caused his death by forcing him to imbibe copious amounts of alcohol. The Beta Theta Pi house was located on campus, and therefore was technically not permitted to have any alcohol on the premises at any times, unlike off-campus fraternities.

New Jersey native Tim Piazza, 19, died in February after slugging vodka and beer in part of a quasi-drinking obstacle course in which participants compete at several stations.

The loose, chronological order of events during the fateful night are as follows: At some point throughout the night, following the heavy drinking, Piazza unsurprisingly became very inebriated, stumbling around the house aimlessly. A brother escorted him to a couch, according to a timeline presented by USA Today.

Later, after a failed attempt to open the front door to the fraternal residence, Piazza made his way towards the basement stairs and fell. Cameras positioned in the basement, though, were allegedly turned off during the night in question. Piazza was then carried back up the steps, limp with a perceptible bruise on his torso. Brothers soon realized that Piazza, a neophyte, was unresponsive by dumping liquid on his face. In an equally unofficial procedure, the members equipped Piazza with a backpack, presumably so he doesn’t choke on his own vomit.

Court records show that throughout the course of the night, Piazza continued to injure himself throughout his drunken stupor, sometimes while brothers were looking, and others when they are reportedly not present. The next morning, he was eventually taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead, roughly 24 hours after the original drinking activities transpired. He suffered a ruptured spleen, and a hemorrhagic shock. His BAC was measured at 0.40, far over the legal driving limit of 0.08.

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