18 members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity are facing charges, including involuntary manslaughter, after the death of 19-year-old engineering major Timothy Piazza, who suffered fatal injuries during a hazing ritual.
The charges were handed down on Friday following a months-long investigation. Eight brothers stand accused of involuntary manslaughter, and others face counts of aggravated assault, hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.
Police allege that, while attending an initiation event on February 2, Piazza fell head-first down a flight of 15 basement steps while intoxicated, and was then carried upstairs and placed on a couch, with nobody calling for help until 12 hours later.
A harrowing grand jury report released on Friday gives further details of the incident, with a doctor calculating that Piazza had a “life-threatening” amount of alcohol in his system at the time of the fall, a concentration of between 0.28 and 0.36 percent.
Security footage showed him staggering towards the basement door at around 10.45pm, and later showed four brothers carrying his limp body to a couch, pouring liquid on him and slapping him.
Medical investigators say he suffered from “multiple traumatic brain injuries”, a fractured skull and a ruptured spleen, resulting in a large amount of blood in his abdominal cavity.
Later security footage shows a fraternity brother being tackled and landing on top of Piazza, and a backpack full of textbooks being placed on him. He is also seen rolling off the couch at one point, and being “slammed” back on by three brothers.
It is alleged that at some point during the night, Piazza rose from the couch and stumbled to the basement again. He was discovered there the next morning, pale and cold to the touch.
According to the grand jury report, searches made on a brother’s phone included “falling asleep after a head injury” and “cold extremities in drunk person.” A member of the frat called 911 at around 10.48am, but Piazza later died in hospital.
It is also alleged that a number of brothers used a group chat app to discuss how they would cover up what had happened.
Speaking at a news conference after the charges were handed down, Piazza’s father Jim Piazza said:
“I’ve said this before: This didn’t have to happen. This is the result of a feeling of entitlement, flagrant disobedience of the law and disregard for moral values that was then exacerbated by egregious acts of self-preservation. Again, this did not have to happen.”
The fraternity in question has been shut down by the university. The website My Central New Jersey has published the full grand jury report and list of charges.