New Jersey

Pennsylvania Attorney General Wants Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Reinstated in Penn State Fraternity Pledge Death Case

Tim Piazza died after a night of drinking in the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi house.

Pennsylvania's attorney general wants a judge to reinstate involuntary manslaughter charges against five former Penn State fraternity members arrested in connection to a pledge's hazing-related death last year. 

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday that his office didn't agree with District Judge Allen Sinclair's decision to dismiss involuntary manslaughter charges against five former Beta Theta Pi fraternity members and demanded that a jury hear evidence and make that decision. 

"That local magistrate should not have the final say,” Shapiro said at a news conference Tuesday morning. 

Shapiro's office is overseeing the prosecution of more than a dozen men accused of playing a role in Piazza's death. The 19-year-old sophomore died of severe head and abdominal injuries after falling several times during an evening of hazing and drinking at the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

"I am committed to holding all individuals responsible for any role they played in the hazing death of Tim Piazza," said Shapiro, who was joined by Piazza's parents at the news conference.

Last week, Shapiro's office appealed the ruling and is seeking to have the charges reinstated "so that a jury of 12 men and women from that community can make the ultimate determination about the defendants accountability." 

Shapiro said he was confident that the evidence against the five members he says should be charged with involuntary manslaughter will support a conviction by a jury. Each of the five helped set up "The Gauntlet" of drinking, were aware of his fall and refused to seek medical attention in a timely manner, Shapiro said.

"They must be held accountable for their respective roles in planning that fateful night, in failing to render aid and for leaving Tim to die in their fraternity house," he said. 

Prosecutors still are reviewing the cases of 15 other fraternity members charged in Piazza's death. Shapiro said his office will announce charges on Wednesday against 12 additional fraternity brothers. Those new charges stem from deleted security video that was later recovered by the FBI

Piazza fell down the basement stairs, and spent the night on the fraternity house's first floor, mostly on a couch but he also is seen on video stumbling and falling several times.

Members of the fraternity took half-hearted and even counterproductive steps to address his condition, ultimately leaving him alone.

Footage shows Piazza walking toward the basement stairs the next morning, and then through the basement toward a bar. He is later seen near the bar, with his head on the floor in between his arms.

About two hours later, he was found unconscious and carried upstairs. Video shows fraternity members standing around Piazza for more than 40 minutes before anyone calls for an ambulance.

Piazza later died at a hospital from severe head injuries that included a skull fracture and a shattered spleen that caused massive abdominal bleeding.

"When a parent sends their child off to college, they don’t expect them to be found at the bottom of a basement – unconscious and fatally injured," Shapiro tweeted Tuesday. "Tim’s death was a tragedy."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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