BELLEFONTE, Pa. – A judge who previously threw out the most serious allegations related to the death of a Penn State pledge said Tuesday he needs a night to consider whether there is enough evidence to reinstate some of the charges.
District Judge Allen Sinclair said after three days of testimony that he will announce Wednesday which charges against 11 former Beta Theta Pi fraternity members should be sent to county court for trial.
The former members of the now-closed fraternity were involved in a pledge bid acceptance ceremony and party the night of Feb. 2, 2017, during which 19-year-old Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and fell several times.
Piazza suffered severe head and abdominal injuries, including a fractured skull and a shattered spleen, and later died at a hospital.
Security video recovered from the house showed that Piazza and other pledges were put through a "gauntlet" of drinking stations, after which they continued to drink in the basement, so much that Piazza had to be led upstairs to a couch while a party raged on around him.
He subsequently stumbled to the basement stairs and fell down them, rendering him unconscious. He was then carried upstairs to the couch, where he spent most of the evening and overnight. Fraternity members did not call for help, but strapped a loaded backpack to him to prevent him from turning over and choking on his vomit, and at other times they attempted to hold him down.
The cameras captured Piazza stumbling around the first floor during the wee hours of the night, falling several times. By the next morning he had returned to the basement, where fraternity members found him unconscious and carried him upstairs again. They waited 40 minutes to summon help.
Piazza was estimated to have consumed three or four times the legal limit of alcohol for driving.
After a grand jury investigation, the local prosecutor charged members of the fraternity, and added more charges and more defendants after the FBI helped recover footage from the basement that a fraternity member allegedly deleted on purpose. State prosecutors have since taken over the case.