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First sentencing set in hazing death of Penn State fraternity pledge

A former Penn State University fraternity brother faces sentencing Tuesday for his role in the alcohol-fueled death of a pledge.

Ryan Burke, 21, pleaded guilty last month to four counts of hazing and five counts related to unlawful acts involving liquor, the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

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

Prosecutors said the case involves 26 defendants. Burke was the first to plead guilty in Centre County Court.

At the time, his attorney, Philip Masorti, said they didn’t ask for a plea agreement and prosecutors didn’t offer one, according to CNN’s sister station, HLN. “We came to court, we acknowledged responsibility and he’s prepared to be sentenced,” Masorti said.

Burke has admitted being at the party and encouraging drinking games with Piazza and other pledges. After the games, Burke walked around with a bottle of vodka and made underage pledges, including Piazza, drink from it, prosecutors said.

Piazza suffered a traumatic brain injury from several falls, including down a set of basement stairs, according to a grand jury investigation.

Surveillance video showed Piazza was given at least 18 drinks in 82 minutes by members of the fraternity. Piazza’s blood-alcohol level went “from a zero to as high as a .36,” a grand jury report said, almost five times the legal limit.