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11 fraternity members will go to trial in connection with Piazza hazing death

Eleven Penn State fraternity members will head to trial over the death of Timothy Piazza, according to a Monday ruling from Centre County, Pennsylvania, Judge Steven Lachman. The ruling comes after 12 defendants had preliminary hearings over three days that concluded last Friday.

“The Office of Attorney General is committed to seeking justice for Timothy Piazza and his family and holding responsible individuals accountable for their actions, consistent with the law and the evidence in this case,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore, died February 4, 2017, after drinking large quantities of alcohol during his first night of pledging at Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The fraternity was supposed to be alcohol-free.

All previous charges of reckless endangerment were dismissed, but several charges of hazing and “unlawful acts relative to liquor, malt, and brewed beverages and licenses,” were upheld. All the charges against one of the 12 defendants were dismissed, according to court documents.

Brian McMonagle, attorney for Jonathan Kanzler, one of the men charged, said, “While we are pleased with the judge’s decision to dismiss the reckless endangerment charges against these young men, we are always mindful of the enormity of the loss that has been suffered in the case.”

Joshua Kurczewski, a brother of Beta Theta Pi at the time, had the most charges filed against him. Lachman ruled to dismiss 12 of those charges, including the most serious count of recklessly endangering another person and one count of conspiracy to commit hazing.

Kurczewski’s attorney, Jeffrey Veitch, said, “We are pleased with the charges the court has dismissed. We had hoped the hazing charges would be entirely dismissed, only one count was dismissed, but we are thankful that the court did make the ruling that it has to this point.”

In a statement on behalf of Timothy’s parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, attorney Thomas Kline said,”While pleased to see the charges of hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors move forward against some defendants, Jim and Evelyn Piazza are dismayed by the dismissal today of the tampering charges against one defendant, as well as dismissal of reckless endangerment charges against another who was involved in the same ritualized hazing as others who were held for trial in the prior preliminary hearing.”

“The Piazzas are hopeful that the attorney general will file an appeal so that all individuals will be held fully responsible for their misconduct and so that dangerous and potentially lethal hazing will be deterred in the future,” added Thomas Kline.

Sharpiro added, “We are in the process of reviewing the judge’s decision to determine next steps, and are pleased that 11 more defendants we charged will be headed to trial.”