New charges were announced today against 17 former Penn State fraternity brothers in connection with video footage from the night of pledge Tim Piazza’s fatal fall earlier this year.
The charges — which include involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and hazing — are the result of an investigation into surveillance video from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house basement that a fraternity member is accused of deleting, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said at a press conference.
The district attorney’s office said that when law enforcement first evaluated video footage after Piazza’s death, “fraternity brothers led police to believe that the basement cameras” weren’t working the night of Piazza’s fall. The district attorney’s office said police later “uncovered evidence that the basement camera footage had actually been manually deleted just as State College Police were poised to take possession of the recording equipment.” The deleted video has since been restored by FBI agents, the district attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors say it was in that basement where Piazza, 19, was forced to drink in a ritual known as the “Gauntlet,” on Feb. 2, ultimately falling down a set of stairs and suffering a fatal injury.
Initially, 18 former Beta Theta Pi members faced charges in connection with Piazza’s death, with prosecutors alleging many were involved in attempting to cover up the incident and “coordinate a story.”
One former fraternity member allegedly texted his girlfriend “drink hazing can send me to jail,” and “I don’t want to go to jail for this.” “I think we are f—–,” he added.
“Make sure the pledges clean the basement and get rid of any evidence of alcohol,” one of the fraternity members allegedly texted another after Piazza’s injury.
In September charges were dismissed completely against four of the former fraternity members who were facing single counts of either tampering with evidence or recklessly endangering another person. The most serious charges — involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault — were also dropped for eight former fraternity members. Cases against 14 students were set to move forward for less serious alleged offenses.
Today, Parks Miller said five of those 14 individuals already facing charges will now face new charges, and she also announced charges against 12 new defendants, as a result of what prosecutors say was seen on that restored basement surveillance video.
The restored video shows a hazing ritual involving beer in the basement and brothers giving pledges wine, beer and vodka, according to the district attorney’s office.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Emily Shapiro