Penn State pledge’s dad criticizes hearing into son’s death
BELLEFONTE — The father of a Penn State student who died from injuries suffered during a fraternity pledge night earlier this year said he’s exasperated by the pace of an ongoing pre-trial hearing for students charged in connection with his son’s death.
Jim Piazza released a statement late Tuesday that said he has not seen much evidence of remorse from defendants in the courtroom during three days of the preliminary hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence to send the case to county court for trial.
“For those parents of defendants who believe their son was improperly charged, I encourage you to talk to your son and to come forward with everything they have that is helpful,” Piazza said. “If they do, I will be extremely supportive.”
The hearing involves the now-shuttered chapter of Beta Theta Pi and 16 of the 18 young men accused of various crimes related to the February death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey. Two of the defendants waived the hearing.
It’s an early stage in the proceedings, and none of the defendants have been convicted of any crime. On Tuesday, several of the defense lawyers cross-examined the lead detective about the investigation. The hearing is tentatively expected to continue next month.
Jim Piazza, who sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery on Tuesday with his wife and civil attorneys, said defense attorneys have been trying to “shift the focus, shift the blame, and shift the responsibility” away from their clients.
“Tim’s death was no accident,” he wrote. “The facts show that there was a calculated plan carefully carried out by people who knew what they were doing and that it was wrong.”
Authorities say Tim Piazza consumed a dangerous level of alcohol the night of a pledge bid acceptance ceremony and party at the Beta Theta Pi house, then suffered a series of falls, leaving him with a fractured skull and severe injuries to his brain and abdomen. Security camera footage, which was shown during the first part of the preliminary hearing last month, depicted him in severe pain over the course of the evening, and showed fraternity members holding him down, pouring liquid on him and clumsily attempting to make him stand up and to dress him.
Tim Piazza was found unconscious in the basement the next morning by fraternity members who then waited about 40 minutes to summon help. He died the next day at a hospital.
The defendants are accused of charges that include, for some, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Others face less serious allegations, including evidence tampering, hazing, reckless endangerment and alcohol offenses.