10 more charged in Penn State frat death
Investigators on Monday said they recovered deleted security camera footage taken inside a Penn State fraternity house and had filed dozens of new charges in the death of a pledge who consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered fatal injuries.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said the new evidence enabled police to determine that Beta Theta Pi pledge Tim Piazza had been given at least 18 drinks over less than 90 minutes.
Piazza, a 19-year-old engineering student from Lebanon, New Jersey, was found to have suffered a fractured skull, shattered spleen and other injuries. His blood-alcohol content was estimated at several times the legal limit for adult drivers.
Miller said the new footage was the basis for charges against 10 additional defendants, as well as seven who had been charged previously. One defendant, a fraternity member, is accused of deleting the video as police were seeking the footage in February.
At least two dozen people now face charges in the case.
The house’s security system captured many of the events the night Piazza was injured, footage that had already been played at a preliminary hearing for those charged previously. But until recently, that did not include the basement, where Piazza was found the next morning.
The lead detective had said the cameras in the basement did not record the night of Feb. 2-3, according to a grand jury, but Miller said the detective pursued the question further and got help from the FBI to restore the missing footage.
Piazza and other pledges convened in the basement, which housed a bar, for about an hour after completing what was called “the gauntlet,” a series of stations inside the fraternity house where they were instructed to quickly down beer and wine.
A news release from Miller said the basement video “clearly depicts a continuation of the hazing activity previously captured upstairs at the gauntlet,” including giving pledges beer, wine and vodka.
“In fact, on video, Tim Piazza does not obtain his own alcohol at any point – rather, every drink consumed was provided to him by a fraternity brother,” she said in the news release.
As they returned to the first floor, the pledges appeared to show signs of intoxication, and Piazza had to be helped to a couch, according to the grand jury and witness testimony during a lengthy preliminary hearing.
Piazza subsequently stumbled toward the basement steps, then fell down them.
Over the rest of that evening, fraternity members were recorded pouring liquid on him, strapping a loaded backpack to him and taking other ineffective or counterproductive steps to deal with his condition.
The video showed Piazza stumbling around in the dark at several points, then disappearing from view.
After someone noticed his shoes were on the first floor the next morning, fraternity members located Piazza, unconscious, in the basement.
They carried him back upstairs, but it was another 40 minutes before an ambulance was summoned.