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Students Face 850 Charges In Court Over Fatal Bullying Incident

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Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore, died from his injuries after falling down a flight of stairs during a pledging ceremony by the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

 

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity and 18 of its brothers were charged Friday in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore. The Centre County District Attorney announced more than 850 charges — including involuntary manslaughter — against the fraternity and its members for Piazza’s death during a pledging ceremony in February.

 

Piazza died from his injuries two days after he was forced to consume “a life-threatening amount of alcohol” and fell down a flight of stairs during a hazing ritual for Beta Theta Pi pledges, according to grand jury findings released on Friday. None of the brothers called for medical help for 12 hours after Piazza first fell — and attempted to cover up their role in his death by deleting their online exchanges, prosecutors said.

 

The Centre County DA released a document revealing chilling details and the sequence of events at the ceremony on Feb. 2 that led to Piazza’s death. Charges against the fraternity and its brothers also include hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors. Piazza suffered from respiratory failure due to severe head trauma and compromised brain function, a medical expert testified. He had multiple traumatic brain injuries and a fracture at the base of his skull.

 

The operating surgeon who opened Piazza’s abdominal cavity discovered four liters — 80% of a human body’s total blood supply — of dark, old blood in his abdomen, according to the grand jury findings.

“Tim was an incredibly young man and an excellent student with a very bright, promising future ahead of him,” his father, Jim Piazza, said at a press conference Friday 5th May.”He was an awesome son, brother, boyfriend, and friend. We’re going to miss him terribly. He wanted nothing more than to make people laugh and just be a good friend.” Jim Piazza said that the death of his son was the result of “a disobedience of law, a disregard of moral values which was then exacerbated by egregious acts of self-preservation.”

“Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity has clearly and consistently expressed its position that it does not tolerate hazing or alcohol abuse in any form by its members,” the statement said. “The former undergraduate members were well educated by the International Fraternity and Penn State on these policies; however, they are entitled to the presumption of innocence as they face these charges.”

 

Penn State president Eric Barron described the details revealed in the grand jury findings as “heart-wrenching and incomprehensible,” in a statement on Friday. “The alleged details in the grand jury presentment, which suggest the inhumane treatment of a student forced through hazing to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol and endure hours of suffering, are sickening and difficult to understand,” Barron said. Since Piazza’s death, the university had announced a number of “aggressive measures” to reform Greek life on campus, he said.

 

Here’s a summary of the events at the pledging ceremony that led to Piazza’s death, all according to the grand jury findings: On the night of Feb. 2, Piazza fell down the fraternity house’s basement steps after allegedly being made to drink four to five alcoholic beverages within two minutes at a series of drinking stations, referred to as the “gauntlet” during the pledging ceremony.

 

The purpose of the gauntlet is to get pledges drunk in a very short time.

 

Surveillance video from the fraternity house showed “a visibly intoxicated” Piazza severely staggering drunkenly toward the basement steps. A brother at the ceremony testified that he saw Piazza “lying on his stomach, face down at the bottom of the steps.”

 

In a group message to the brothers, one of them wrote: “Also Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.” According to the findings, some of the brothers carried Piazza to a couch. The teen’s body was limp, he appeared to be unconscious, and he had a bruise on his abdomen, according to surveillance video.

 

As Piazza lay on the couch, the findings revealed that brothers allegedly dumped liquid on his face, slapped his face multiple times, struck him on his bruised abdomen, and attached a backpack to him to presumably prevent him from rolling over.

The grand jury concluded that despite noting the severity of Piazza’s condition through the night, the fraternity brothers and pledges did not call the authorities until 12 hours later. The horrors of the night will see the students charged with 850 charges after the fateful night that saw Piazza lose his life at the fraternity hazing. As the students involved await their day in court, Penn State University organized a vigil in honor of Timothy Piazza.

As bullying and hazing activities rise in schools and university campuses across the globe, negligence and extreme measures indicate a new trend claiming lives of the youth.

This article wad first published on Buzzfeed.

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