Judge dismisses top charges in Penn State fraternity death

Trevor Jackson
September 2, 2017

All closing arguments have been made for the preliminary hearing of Penn State fraternity members charged in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza.

She will argue that Sinclair committed an error of law in dismissing charges and ask that he be moved aside for another district judge to determine if the charges should move forward. Kubera had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and other crimes in connection with the death of Tim Piazza.

The lawyer for a Penn State fraternity president accused in the death of a pledge after a night of drinking and hazing says his client didn't see anything to make him think the pledge was at risk of dying.

A preliminary hearing for 16 members of Beta Theta Pi continued for a seventh day Thursday, with lawyers telling District Judge Allen Sinclair they had little reason to anticipate that 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, would consume unsafe amounts of alcohol and fall several times.

Several attorneys said that drinking is not required to join the fraternity and Piazza chose to drink.

After the judge's ruling, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced that she plans to refile charges and denied there was prosecutorial overreach because the more serious charges were dropped.

The seventh day of a preliminary hearing was being held Thursday before a district judge who'll decide if prosecutors have enough evidence to send the case to county court for trial.

On Wednesday, Tim Bream, the fraternity's live-in adviser and a Penn State Athletics employee, testified that although he lived in the house, he went to bed before any of the activities leading to Piazza's death occurred and he was more of a "guidance counselor" than an "overlord".

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Tim Bream, also the football team's head athletic trainer, said he went to his room after watching the pledge ceremony and left for work the next morning without noticing Piazza.

Piazza drank a unsafe amount of alcohol and fell repeatedly, suffering fatal injuries.

The judge issued this decision after a seven day preliminary hearing. Large portions of the video broadcast earlier in the proceeding showed Piazza, from Lebanon, New Jersey, falling again through the night.

Prosecutors painted the fraternity brothers as pressuring their pledges to drink at unsafe levels, while defense attorneys said their various clients didn't know the full extent of what happened that night and Piazza wasn't forced to consume alcohol after the initial pledge ritual.

The fraternity has been shut down by the university.

In a marathon set of oral arguments that stretched over two days, defense attorneys sought to persuade the judge that their clients' roles were minimal or their actions did not amount to criminal behavior.

Penn State shut down the Beta chapter permanently after an investigation into Piazza's death and the Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity suspended the group.

Authorities say 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, consumed a risky amount of alcohol and fell several times, including down a set of basement stairs. After Piazza's fall and around 11:50 p.m. that night, fraternity member Greg Rizzo wrote to others in the house in a group message that Piazza "might actually be a problem". Two defendants waived the hearing.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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