Serious Charges Dismissed in Death of Penn State Student Timothy Piazza

Photo of a courthouseA New Jersey man named Timothy Piazza died on February 4, 2017 after a hazing ritual at a University of Pennsylvania frat house. Piazza was participating in a series of challenges involving alcohol after pledging to Beta Theta Phi. Shortly after finishing “the gauntlet,” a challenge to quickly consume beer, wine and liquor, Piazza became highly intoxicated. Security footage captured his chilling and tragic final hours. Many of the fraternity members involved in his death were charged with crimes, including involuntary manslaughter and felony assault. However, many of those serious charges have now been dismissed. 12 of the frat brothers now face lesser charges, including alcohol violations, hazing and reckless endangerment.

Timothy Piazza’s Final Hours

Shortly after 11 p.m. on February 2, Piazza is seen on video stumbling with clear signs of intoxication. He sits down on a couch, but a few minutes later wanders away. Afterwards, he fell head-first down a set of stairs leading to the frat house basement. He was carried back up by other fraternity members, clearly unconscious.

For several hours, fraternity brothers either ignored him or took part in half-hearted measures to revive him. These included pouring drinks on him and strapping a backpack on him to keep him weighted down, preventing him from choking on vomit.

Later in the party, Piazza got up and stumbled around the room. He fell several times, sustaining multiple brain injuries. He eventually ended up in the basement again and was carried out once more.

The morning after Piazza’s injuries, fraternity members finally called an ambulance. His examinations showed that he had ingested a dangerous amount of alcohol and had suffered severe head and abdominal injuries. He died soon after being admitted into the hospital.

Police investigations of Piazza’s death found a series of messages indicated that fraternity members tried to cover up the crime scene. Members were instructed to clean the basement and remove all indications that alcohol had been present. Leaders instructed pledges to keep quiet. Others forced the removal of a GroupMe message thread to prevent police from seeing certain messages on Piazza’s phone. And some discussed deleting the security camera footage showing the hours during which Piazza was dying.

The tragic death of Timothy Piazza shows that there is still much work to be done to prevent senseless wrongful deaths from hazing.

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