After a months-long grand jury investigation, a Penn State University fraternity and 18 of its members were charged on Friday with manslaughter and other charges stemming from the death of a teenage student during an alcohol-fueled hazing session in February.
Centre Country District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller charged the Beta Theta Pi fraternity with manslaughter, hazing and alcohol-related violations in the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza.
The 18 Beta Theta Pi members face an array of charges, including involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, assault, hazing and alcohol-related violations. Eight of them were arraigned on Friday afternoon, while the rest are scheduled to be arraigned next week, prosecutors said.
Piazza, a sophomore from New Jersey, died on Feb. 4 after getting intoxicated and at least twice falling down the basement stairs of the frat house two days earlier, Miller’s office said.
He was one of several students who were seeking membership in the fraternity, a process known as pledging.
The pledges consumed large amounts of alcohol as part of their initiation, prosecutors said, and were required to run “a gauntlet,” going from station to station and drinking a different alcoholic beverage at each one.
After Piazza’s falls, fraternity members brought him up and placed him on a couch, but no one called for an ambulance until late in the morning of Feb. 3, prosecutors said. He died at a hospital early on Feb. 4.
Forensic pathologist Harry Kamerow told the grand jury that Piazza’s death was a direct result of traumatic brain injuries. Kamerow calculated that when he fell down the stairs, Piazza had a blood alcohol content of 0.36 percent, a life-threatening level.