Beta Theta Pi Penn State Hazing Death Leads to Charges

Published: May 9, 2017

All 18 Beta Theta Pi fraternity members at Penn State University were charged for the hazing death of Tim Piazza in February.

Eight students were charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault while ten others were charged with lesser crimes such as hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and tampering with evidence.

“This is a very sad day,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said after the charges were announced. “It’s been sad ever since we lost a child for reasons that are totally preventable.”

Beta Theta Pi Hazing Leads to Death

Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore from New Jersey, died after consuming large amounts of alcohol and sustaining traumatic brain injuries when he fell several times on the night of Feb. 2.

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Video surveillance in the Beta Theta Pi house shows Piazza fell down the basement stairs at least twice during a party where students pledging the fraternity went from station to station drinking different alcoholic beverages, reports

A fraternity member testified that the students were made to have four to five drinks within two minutes. Forensic pathologist Harry Kamerow estimated that Piazza’s blood alcohol content was a dangerous 0.36 percent at the time he fell down the stairs.

RELATED: Manslaughter Conviction in Florida A&M Hazing Death Upheld

Just before midnight, pledging student Greg Rizzo messaged other Beta Theta Pi fraternity members informing them that Piazza “fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”

After the fall, fraternity members carried Piazza up the stairs and placed him on a couch. Some students poured liquid on Piazza’s face and slapped him to wake him up, reports USA Today.

At 3:30 a.m., Piazza staggered around the house, again falling and striking his head. Four hours later, video footage shows Piazza walking toward the basement steps in a daze.

At 10 a.m., Beta Theta Pi pledge Daniel Erickson found Piazza in the basement. Nobody in the fraternity called 911 until 10:48 a.m.

During the ensuing investigation, it was determined that some fraternity members considered destroying evidence including group messages and video surveillance footage.

PSU Responds to the Beta Theta Pi Hazing Death

Following Piazza’s death, Beta Theta Pi was banned from campus for five years with the possibility of the ban becoming permanent pending the results of an investigation. All Greek Life organizations on PSU’s campus have also been restricted from recruiting new members and holding social events.

PSU President Eric Barron released a statement following the grand jury’s investigation and charges.

“The alleged details in the grand jury presentment, which suggest inhumane treatment of a student forced through hazing to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol and endure hours of suffering, are sickening and difficult to understand,” Barron said. “It is numbing how an atmosphere that endangers the well-being and safety of another person could occur within an organization that prided itself on commitment to each other and to its community.”

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