It started as a pledge ceremony and it led to the death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza. It was February 2nd when Piazza was pledging to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house and the ritual hazing requirements were taking place. Monday, the grand jury indicted
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Piazza and other pledges had to run the “gantlet,” in which pledges formed a line and were told to drink from a bottle of vodka and pass it down until it was empty. They then ran to and from drinking stations where they drank wine from a bag or shot gunned beer. Piazza was so intoxicated that he could barely walk and fell time and time again. Those in the fraternity did not help their injured pledge except to sit him on the sofa with a heavy book bag attached to him to keep him from falling over and vomiting on himself.
Security camera footage shows Piazza stumbling face first down a 15-foot flight of stairs head first. Yet no one called for any help until the following morning. At around 10:00 a.m. fraternity brothers were waking to the fact that Piazza was unresponsive and unconscious. They spent about a half hours trying to wake him by slapping his face and pouring water on his face. Finally, at 10:48 a.m., a fraternity member called 911. The caller, identified as Ryan McCann, stated that “we have a friend who’s unconscious” then stating that “He’s … hasn’t moved,” and that they were “probably going to need an ambulance.” At that point, prosecutors alleged that the cover-up began.
Text messages reveal that members of the fraternity knew what had happened was criminal but tried to spin it so that the fraternity would not be found at fault. The injuries to Piazza were significant to overlook. The emergency room physician stated that Piazza’s blood alcohol level was 4 times the legal limit, he also suffered a traumatic brain injury, and had a ruptured spleen. Piazza was pronounced dead from the brain injury he sustained falling down the steps.
Per the grand jury report, a deleted text that was recovered, with fraternity member writing that “If need be, just tell them what I told you guys, found him behind [a bar] the next morning at around 10 a.m., and he was freezing-cold, but we decided to call 911 instantly, because the kid’s health was paramount.” In all 18 members of the fraternity facing charges in Piazza’s death. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on accusations he tampered with evidence.
Eight members of the fraternity face allegations that include involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, with some charged with 200 separate counts. Others, including McCann, are accused only of a single charge of evidence tampering. The details in the grand jury documents are “heart-wrenching and incomprehensible,” Penn State President Eric Barron said Friday, saying Piazza had endured “inhumane treatment” at the fraternity’s hands.
“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,” Barron said.