PA Attorney General’s Office appealing dismissal of charges in Penn State hazing death

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HARRISBURG, P.A. --- Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office is looking to to reinstate charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment against several former Penn State Beta Thetha Pi fraternity members.

"My office is seeking justice for Tim Piazza and the entire Piazza family," said Shapiro.

Piazza, 19, died after falling down the stairs leading to the basement of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house in February 2017.

Prosecutors say he, and other pledges, were part of a speed drinking event known as "The Gauntlet"

Surveillance footage showed Piazza receiving 18 drinks in less than an hour and a half.

Following his death, 26 fraternity members faced charges including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

But a Centre County judge dismissed the most serious charges last September.

After the charges were re-filed, Shapiro's office took over the case in January.

His office charged five fraternity members with involuntary manslaughter: Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Gary Dibileo and Luke Visser.

Three others were charged with conspiracy and reckless endangerment: Joseph Sala, Michael Bonatucci and Nicholas Kubera.

However, in March, the same judge dismissed the most serious charges.

"That local district magistrate should not have the final say. Should not have the final say. Instead, we firmly believe justice for Tim Piazza demand that a jury hears this evidence," said Shapiro.

He said they believe they can prove involuntary manslaughter in a trial with evidence from their new theory.

"First, participating in the Gauntlet. Second, knowing of Tim's fall. And third, failing to act to get the necessary medical care before it was too late," said Shapiro.

Shapiro said his office will move forward with additional charges for 12 other fraternity members based on "conduct that occurred after the Gauntlet" seen on basement video.

He said these charges will include hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and reckless endangerment.

They will not pursue any further assault or involuntary manslaughter charges against those 12, citing lack of evidence.

Tim Piazza's mother and father were present at Tuesday's announcement.

His father, Jim, expressed their appreciation to prosecutors for not giving up on the case.

"They're commitment to evidence is important for bringing justice and is an important step towards change as it related to these archaic and egregious behaviors. No one's child should be hurt or die from just trying to join an organization," said Piazza.

Shapiro says the total number of fraternity members facing charges remains 26.

For the more serious charges, he said if Centre County Common Pleas denies their appeal, they plan to take the appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

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