Friday, 23 June, 2017

Penn State University fraternity, members charged in hazing death

Craig Ferguson | 10 May, 2017, 04:10

A Penn State fraternity and eight of its members were charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter in the hazing death of a student, the local district attorney's office said.

On one of the busiest days of the year at University Park the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house sits quiet.

Penn State President Eric Barron called what happened to Timothy Piazza "inhumane treatment".

Piazza tumbled down a flight of stairs that night and fell several other times, injuring his head, officials said. Videos show Piazza unable to open a door and needing help to walk.

A harrowing grand jury report released on Friday gives further details of the incident, with a doctor calculating that Piazza had a "life-threatening" amount of alcohol in his system at the time of the fall, a concentration of between 0.28 and 0.36 percent.

At about 1am, fraternity brothers put a backpack full of books on Piazza, who had thrown up and was twitching, in an attempt to keep him from rolling onto his back, according to the grand jurors' findings.

According to prosecutors, members of the fraternity testified to a grand jury that Beta was supposed to be a "dry" house, but alcohol was still consumed during its events.

After reading the 65-page grand jury presentment, Walker said the case against his client is not strong and the document makes clear that DiBileo wanted to call an ambulance for Piazza. The next morning, he fell down the stairs again and was unconscious when help was finally summoned.

According to the report, Piazza, adhering to his responsibilities as a new pledge, got dangerously drunk and wound up falling down a flight of stairs, which did not escape the notice of his brothers-to-be: almost 11 hours before a fraternity member called 911 the following morning, several brothers were already chatting about the incident over group text.

Weeks before the grand jury investigation findings were released, Penn State Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims told Philly.com that the university knew the party included a "hazing ritual" that involved "gross misuse of alcohol".

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"I was told it was going to be handled their way", he said. Ten other fraternity members also were charged.

Piazza, 19, died of his injuries after falling down the stairs in February at a pledge acceptance ceremony, CBS News reported at the time.

He was pledging Beta Theta Pi.

Testimony by State College police Detective David Scicchitano revealed receipts were recovered showing about $1,180 in alcohol was purchased by the fraternity between January 25 and February 2.

On Feb. 5, Brendan Young, the president of the Penn State chapter, discussed concerns about "lawsuits" with another member.

"The nature of those charges are incredibly disheartening as the organization and its membership continue to grieve Tim's passing and the pain experienced by his family", Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity said in a statement, according to ABC News.

In the early hours after the initial fall, brothers poured liquid on Piazza's face and slapped him in attempts to rouse him.

The other 10 defendants, including 20-year-old Edward J. Gilmartin III, of 1737 N. Washington Ave., are not charged with manslaughter.

"At Penn State Behrend here we try to hold as many risk management seminars as possible so everyone here is sort of knowledgeable on different situations and different scenarios that could arise when you have a social event", Shakespeare told us.

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