Judge to rule whether Penn State University fraternity death case can proceed

All closing arguments have been made for the preliminary hearing of Penn State fraternity members charged in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza.

District Justice Allen Sinclair says he'll decide Friday whether prosecutors put on enough evidence to send the charges against the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and 16 former members to county court for trial.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she planned to seek a county judge's permission to refile involuntary manslaughter charges, and might also attempt to reinstate aggravated assault charges.

Eighteen frat members face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to alcohol violations in his death.

Parks Miller repeatedly said the actions of the fraternity brothers, who directed pledges to run through a series of drinking stations, showed the sort of recklessness required to support some of the allegations.

Two of the accused gave up their right to the preliminary hearing including Ed Gilmartin from Scranton.

"There is a lot that will go into this", Michael Engle, attorney for defendant Gary Dibileo, said Friday of the work that remains.

For those reasons, most observers believe the defense lawyers, collectively, will continue to fight the charges aggressively for the time being, at least until all viable efforts to win pre-trial dismissals have been played out. It also said she misled the disciplinary counsel's investigators.

A judge is set to announce whether he's keeping alive charges against Penn State fraternity members linked to the death of a pledge whose agonizing night after a fall down stairs was captured by security cameras in February.

"Sometimes judges get it wrong - that's why we have an appeal", she said.

"Yes, there's excessive drinking on college campuses", defense attorney Theodore Simon, who represents one of the eight who were facing felony charges, argued Thursday.

It sounds insane to say after eight days of preliminary hearings, but now the real work begins.

An attorney for the head trainer for Penn State's football team argued Wednesday that he should not testify, saying Tim Bream has no evidence that could help exonerate the former members of Beta Theta Pi. It took another 40 minutes for fraternity members to call an ambulance.

That behavior, she argued, meets state standards for criminal liability. He later died at a hospital. He was in the Beta Theta Pi house the night in February that Piazza consumed a unsafe amount of alcohol during a hazing ritual and fell repeatedly, suffering fatal injuries.

The fraternity's permit from the Interfraternity Council to serve alcohol that night did not absolve them, she said.

Defense attorneys want to question Tim Bream about what he knew about events leading up to the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.

  • Joey Payne