First guilty plea en­tered in Penn State fra­ter­nity death

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS -

BELLEFONTE, PA. » A for­mer Penn State Univer­sity fra­ter­nity brother on Wed­nes­day en­tered the first guilty plea in the death of a pledge who was fa­tally in­jured af­ter a night of heavy drink­ing and haz­ing.

Ryan Burke, 21, of Scran­ton, pleaded guilty Wed­nes­day to all nine re­main­ing charges he faced, in­clud­ing four mis­de­meanors al­leg­ing haz­ing. Other charges were pre­vi­ously dis­missed or with­drawn.

“There are too few words to de­scribe a loss so great. This young man un­der­stands that,” Burke’s at­tor­ney, Philip Ma­sorti, said out­side the court­house, putting his hand on Burke’s shoul­der. “This is a tragedy, and he is anx­ious to make amends.”

En­gi­neer­ing stu­dent Tim Pi­azza, 19, of Le­banon, New Jersey, drank a dan­ger­ous amount of al­co­hol and suf­fered fa­tal head and ab­dom­i­nal in­juries in a se­ries of falls dur­ing a bid ac­cep­tance cer­e­mony and party last year. Mem­bers of the fra­ter­nity took half-hearted and even coun­ter­pro­duc­tive steps to ad­dress his con­di­tion.

Burke was ac­cused of giv­ing Pi­azza a bot­tle of vodka at the party. He’ll be sen­tenced July 31.

“We are pleased to see one in­di­vid­ual ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity and en­cour­age oth­ers to fol­low in his steps,” said Tom Kline, at­tor­ney for Pi­azza’s par­ents.

Twenty-five other de­fen­dants still face charges. A mag­is­trate has pre­vi­ously thrown out the most se­ri­ous charges — in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter — against five de­fen­dants.

ABBY DREY/CEN­TRE DAILY TIMES VIA AP

Ryan Burke, a for­mer Beta Theta Pi brother, pleaded guilty for his role in Ti­mothy Pi­azza’s death at the Cen­tre County Court­house An­nex on Wed­nes­day, Bellefonte, Pa. Burke’s at­tor­ney, Philip Ma­sorti, said “this young man is com­ing for­ward to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

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