Three months of hearings finally came to a close in the case of Tim Piazza’s death from injuries he sustained at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.
Judge Allen Sinclair dismissed the most serious charges — involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and simple assault — Friday morning at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
Only 14 of the 18 originally charged former brothers will head toward trial. Judge Sinclair dismissed singular charges against Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker, and Joseph Ems, while Ed Gilmartin and Ryan Foster, who also faced just one charge each, will go forward with their cases after waiving their rights to preliminary hearings.
Remaining Charges and Maximum Penalties
Here’s the list of the original charges filed against members of Beta Theta Pi (Charges that will head to trial are in bold, while those that were dismissed are not.):
- Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci, Gary Dibileo, Luke Visser, and Joe Sala: recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors, and unlawful acts relative to liquor, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault (other charges brought against some (but not all) of these former brothers include consumption of alcohol by a minor, tampering with evidence, and disorderly conduct)
- Michael Angelo Schiavone, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon, and Parker Jax Yochim: recklessly endangering another person, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors, and unlawful acts relative to liquor
- Ed Gilmartin and Ryan Foster: tampering with evidence
- Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker: tampering with evidence
- Joseph Ems: recklessly endangering another person
Here’s the list of the the maximum penalties associated with each charge (Charges that will head to trial are in bold, while those that were dismissed are not.):
- Involuntary Manslaughter: Misdemeanor in the first degree. Carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment if convicted and no more than $10,000 in fines.
- Aggravated Assault: Felony in the first degree. This carries a punishment of up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted.
- Simple Assault: Misdemeanor of the second degree. This carries a punishment of up to five years imprisonment if convicted.
- Tampering With or Fabricating Physical Evidence: Misdemeanor of the second degree. This carries a maximum sentence of up to two years imprisonment and no more than $5,000 in fines if convicted.
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person: Misdemeanor of the second degree. This carries a maximum sentence of up to two years imprisonment and no more than $5,000 in fines if convicted.
- Hazing: Misdemeanor of the third degree. This carries a maximum sentence of not more than one year imprisonment and not less than $1,000 in fines.
- Unlawful Acts Relative To Liquor: Misdemeanor.
- Furnishing Alcohol To Minors: Misdemeanor of the third degree. This charge carries a maximum penalty of a fine totaling not less than $1,000 for the first offense along with a $2,500 fine with each “subsequent violation.”
District Attorney Refiling Charges
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she will refile the charges after the judge’s decision to dismiss several of the more serious charges in the case.
“I believe people should be held accountable to what they’ve actually done,” Parks Miller said. “This case greatly surpasses an ordinary furnishing case. I mean, a young man died and to just say ‘Well, you know the judge was wrong. There are some charges missed, we’ll just let them go.'”
“There are some low-level misdemeanors [heading to trial], and they signify, literally, something as minor as one 21-year-old friend buying a case of beer for an 18-year-old.”
Parks Miller also noted additional charges could come from looking into the video evidence as part of an ongoing investigation.
Attorneys Believe Case Was Overcharged
Attorneys of the Beta Theta Pi brothers believe this will be the end of the felony charges, despite Parks Miller refiling, because they believe the grand jury went beyond the law to over-charge their clients.
“I think as we’ve said all along this was an overreaching with respect to the charges, and I think that’s what the court found here,” Michael Engle, the attorney for Gary DiBileo, said. “Hopefully the dismissal of the charges here will show that overreaching with respect to those types of offenses is not proper and the courts won’t tolerate it.”
Part of the issue with the charges is they came from a grand jury of people not specially trained in the law (with the oversight of the district attorney), according to Michael Bonatucci’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone.
“You have to keep in mind the grand jury consists of laypeople,” Cipparone said. “This was a trained judge who has been sitting as a judge for a long time and he made the right legal and factual findings after an eight-day hearing.”
Cipparone argued against Parks Miller’s assertions that the judge’s decision was completely wrong.
“To say the grand jury findings supersede a trained judge’s decision is I think inappropriate,” Cipparone said. “I think this judge got it right with respect to the charges he dismissed.”