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Penn State fraternity members escape serious charges in pledge death

by Leigh Jones
Posted 9/01/17, 04:22 pm

A Pennsylvania judge ordered 12 members of a Penn State University fraternity to stand trial in the alcohol-related hazing death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, a pledge who died in February. But the judge threw out the most serious charges pending against the college students: manslaughter and aggravated assault. Defense attorney Michael Engle said “the teeth have really been taken out” of the prosecution’s case, one of the biggest hazing-related cases brought in U.S. history. The most serious charge left pending against the men is reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor with little to no jail time. During the lengthy preliminary hearing, prosecutors showed grand jurors hours of security camera footage documenting Piazza’s harrowing experience. After guzzling vodka and beer at a series of drinking stations, Piazza fell down the fraternity house’s basement stairs. Fraternity members didn’t call an ambulance until the next day. Piazza died 24 hours later of multiple injuries, including a fractured skull and a damaged spleen. In Friday’s decision, the judge threw out charges against four defendants. Two previously waived their right to a preliminary hearing and agreed to stand trial. The judge has not set a date for the trial to begin.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on education for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 09/02/2017 09:00 am

    Oof.  I have very mixed feelings about this.  The members who led the hazing should be held responsible for Tim's death.  On the other hand, this should also serve as yet another example of a completely avoidable tragedy--if the victim had had enough courage (and dignity) to say no to the ritual.  I remain amazed at what people will do to obtain membership in a group.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 09/02/2017 04:52 pm

    I agree with Brendan.  The whole experience of drinking your way into an organization that's supposed to enhance your standing in the community seems very strange to me.  I do not think this is an isolated case were it not for the death.  This type of hazing and introduction to a lifestyle is quite common.  To bad such organiations exist and too bad young men and women want to be part of it. 

  • DEBORAH BRIXEN's picture
    Posted: Mon, 09/04/2017 08:53 am

    And these "brothers" as prefaced by daughterofgrace, could be our next politicians..... get a grip on that one!