More are charged in hazing, coverup
Video was deleted
PHILADELPHIA — Prosecutors on Monday charged five more Pennsylvania State University fraternity members, including a Scranton man, with felonies in connection with fraternity pledge Tim Piazza’s hazing death, after recovering footage they say had been deleted from a frat house security camera.
Ryan Burke, 21, of Scranton, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.
In addition, Centre County District Attorney Stacey Parks Miller said one already charged member of the nowdefunct Beta Theta Pi fraternity — Braxton Becker, 20, of N is kay una, New York— would face new counts for deleting the video in an attempt to frustrate the investigation.
“We know exactly what time it was deleted,” she told reporters at a news conference in Bellefonte. “It was while police were in the house.”
That missing video had bedeviled investigators since early in the investigation. FBI analysts were finally able to recover it from the hard drive on which it had been stored, Parks Miller said.
It depicts more fraternity members participating in a booze-fueled initiation ritual known as The Gauntlet, including a beer pong station where Piazza was handed beer after beer to shotgun
with other members of his pledge class.
“Every drink consumed was provided to him by a fraternity brother,” Parks Miller said. “Based on the video, Tim Piazza was furnished with at least 18 drinks in 1 hour and 22 minutes.”
Parks Miller announced new charges against 12 men at a press conference Monday.
In addition to those charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault on Monday, Parks Miller filed misdemeanor hazing cases against an additional six fraternity members and added new counts to the cases against many of the 14 already charged.
As the district attorney described that scene, Piazza’s parents stood by shaking their heads. Later, the pledge’ s father—James Piazza—thanked Parks Miller and the State College police for their continued pursuit of the investigation.
“Hazing is illegal and justice needs to be served,” he said. “It’s time to man up, fellas, and face accountability for your actions.”
Since his death in February, the circumstances surrounding Piazza’ s final hours have roiled the university and its Greek system. Footage obtained from elsewherein the fraternity house helped Parks Miller’s build the case and chronic led the harrowing last hours of the sophomore engineering student from New Jersey as he drunkenly stumbled into walls, passed out for hours and repeatedly fell down a flight of basement stairs.
All the while, the footage shows, other fraternity members either ignored or jokingly beat and slapped the engineering student with none calling for help until late the next morning. Piazza died a day later. But the case has prompted backlash from the charged Beta Theta Pi members and their lawyers, who contend their clients never intended to harm Piazza. They have accused Parks Miller of overreaching in one of the largest hazing-related prosecutions in the nation’s history — and managed to convince a Centre County magistrate judge with the same arguments.
In September, Judge Allen Sinclair gutted the prosecution’s case, throwing out the most serious felony charges against the fraternity members and saying prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to support them.