July 26, 2017

Penn State frat brother 'didn't know what to do' about unconscious pledge

09 May 2017, 08:01 | Leonard Manning

Penn State student said frat brothers ignored pleas to help classmate

The 18 students and the university's Beta Theta Pi chapter face charges including involuntary manslaughter aggravated assault and tampering with evidence in the death of Timothy Piazza

Piazza died after a drunken fall down stairs at the Penn State frat house where he was pledging.

Timothy Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State, died while attending a pledge party at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

"Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity has clearly and consistently expressed its position that it does not tolerate hazing or alcohol abuse in any form by its members", the Beta Theta Pi national fraternity said in statement on May 5. Other charges included hazing, aggravated and simple assault, alcohol-related violations and evidence tampering. He declined comment Monday and referred questions to a lawyer who did not immediately return a phone message.

Piazza died on February 4 after being transported to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, having suffered a non-recoverable brain injury, life threatening spleen injury and other trauma. They say the next morning he fell down the same steps a second time and was unconscious when help was finally summoned.

The grand jury concluded that the brothers at Beta Theta Pi cultivated such a permissive atmosphere regarding excessive alcohol consumption, that Piazza's death was not an unfortunate accident, but was the direct result of encouraged reckless conduct that demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life, or a reckless interference to the possible consequences of such conduct.

Court documents detail a night of intense hazing with alcohol and a group of frat brothers watching Piazza squirm and struggle after falling down those stairs.

Once Timothy was hospitalized, the brothers conducted "an active attempt to hide and/or destroy evidence", according to a "wealth of information" found by investigators.

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Text messages sent between the fraternity brothers revealed they instructed pledges to clean the basement and get rid of any evidence of alcohol from the night before. Piazza's father, Jim Piazza, said at a press conference Friday morning, "This didn't have to happen". "I was told it was going to be handled their way", Davis said.

Miller also said video footage turned over to investigators provided evidence of what occurred and contradicted stories some witnesses had told.

The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer shortly thereafter, and an hour later, needing help to walk from an area near the basement stairs to a couch, staggering and hunched over.

During the following 42 minutes, the fraternity brothers shook Piazza to wake him, tried propping him up, covered him with a blanket, and washed his face clean. At another point, two scrapping brothers tackling each other landed on top of him, and his brothers placed a bag filled with books on Piazza to prevent him rolling over and suffocating on his own vomit. Davis said he thought he should be at a hospital instead, and told his new frat brothers so.

Another told him that others were kinesiology and biology majors so Davis' word meant nothing. Hours later, he again fell, hitting his head off a stone floor.

"Timothy was lying on his back with his arms clenched tight at his sides and his hands in the air", jurors wrote. Fraternity members helped him up and took him to Urgent Care, a walk-in non-emergency care center, but never called 9-1-1.

According to a Centre County District Attorney's office news release, the remaining members are slated for arraignment at 2:30 the Centre County Courthouse.

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