Judge drops top charges in Penn State fraternity death

Judge nearing decision on trial over Penn State frat death

Involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges have been dropped against eight former Penn State University fraternity members in connection with the death of a pledge at the fraternity house earlier this year, a Pennsylvania judge announced today.

No defendants have entered charges.

District Judge Allen Sinclair said after the seventh day of a preliminary hearing ended Thursday that he would render his decision Friday at 11 a.m.

Several fraternity members were bound over for trial on charges including hazing, furnishing alcohol, reckless endangerment, and tampering with evidence. "This case is about when is it going to stop in America - the craziness, the permissiveness, the excessiveness, the debauchery, the depravity that goes on in a fraternity house like we saw on a video tape".

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said after the hearing that she was "certainly planning to refile" the involuntary manslaughter charges, calling that decision "a no-brainer".

A courtroom sketch shows some of the members of Penn State's Beta Theta Pi house charged in the pledge death of Timothy Piazza.

Members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity still face lesser charges in the death of Timothy Piazza, who died on February 4 after playing a drinking game at the fraternity house near campus in State College, Pennsylvania. Their civil lawyer, Tom Kline, said they planned to return home and consider that their son won't be at Penn State's home football opener on Saturday.

Piazza died two days later.

Piazza was unconscious by the time he was discovered in the basement the next morning, and he was found to have suffered severe head and abdominal injuries.

"There is no evidence that Joseph Sala acted in any way that manifested an extreme indifference to the value of human life, that he had a conscious awareness, a foreseeability that death or serious bodily injury would result", Ambrose argued.

Defense attorneys said they would challenge any effort to restore the dismissed charges, and will work to whittle down what remains. The Piazzas talked about Timothy Piazza, 19, a brother, son and Penn State sophomore who died in February after he was put through a ritual at his fraternity house and forced to drink risky amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. "That does not transform it into criminal behavior".

Defense lawyers have argued that their clients could not have reasonably expected that the drinking typically associated with a fraternity party would lead to someone's death.

Do Penn State's Reforms After Hazing Death Go Far Enough?

Bream was in the Beta Theta Pi house the night in February that 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza consumed a risky amount of alcohol and fell repeatedly. They argued the students had little reason to anticipate tragic results from a night that also included an alcohol-fueled social mixer with a sorority group.

Ezra Kaplan reported from Bellefonte, Pa., and Erik Ortiz reported from NY.

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