US Frat Brothers Escape Manslaughter Charges In Horror Hazing Death Of Pledge

In a move that has taken prosecutors by surprise, a US judge has dropped manslaughter and aggravated assault charges against a group of Pennsylvania State University frat brothers, in connection with the hazing death of 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza.

Piazza, an engineering major, suffered “multiple traumatic brain injuries” over the course of a ‘Hell Week‘ event at the Beta Theta Pi frat house in February of this year, at one point falling “head-first” down a flight of steps while heavily intoxicated.

Prosecutors allege that he was carried to a couch at one point during the night, and security footage shows an individual being “tackled” and landing on top of him, as well as several others pouring liquid on him and “slamming” him back onto the couch when he rolled off.

It is further alleged that Piazza rose from the couch and stumbled back to the basement though the evening, but when he was discovered “pale and cold” the next day, the brothers delayed calling an ambulance and used a group chat app to discuss how they would “cover up” what happened.

Piazza later died in hospital, and in May this year, 18 brothers were formally charged, with eight accused of involuntary manslaughter and the others facing lesser counts of aggravated assault, hazing and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

On Friday, in a move that surprised prosecutors in the case, judge Allen Sinclair threw out the involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges, dismissing all charges against four brothers and ordering 12 to stand trial on less serious counts.

These include “recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to a minor, tampering with evidence and unlawful acts related to liquor.”

Per reports from the US ABC network, the two remaining brothers waived their preliminary hearing, so they are automatically continuing to court.

Joseph Ems, a former Penn State fraternity member who had all charges against him dropped, told media he is “very relieved” at the outcome.

His attorney added: “There are no winners here – a young man died. That tragedy doesn’t mean someone like Joey Ems should be held responsible for it. He’s innocent. He shouldn’t have been charged.”

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller was upset by the development, telling reporters:

We respect the Judge and have worked with him a long time, but in this case we disagree with his decision, as did the Centre County Investigating Grand Jury. This case was thoroughly vetted and dissected by the dedicated Centre County Grand Jury for over two-and-a-half months.

After weighing and measuring the evidence and Pennsylvania law in this matter, after great deliberation, they thoughtfully returned a presentment finding probable cause against each and every defendant for every charge presented, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault – reckless mindset. No less than 12 Grand Jurors previously agreed that there was probable cause for these charges.

In the wake of Piazza’s hazing death, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity has since been barred from Penn State, and the university has made new rules banning kegs and limiting the number of social events that can be thrown with alcohol per semester.