Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced Monday in a press conference that the FBI was able to recover deleted surveillance footage from the basement of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on bid acceptance night.
New evidence found on the videos led to new charges filed against 17 individuals; a total of 26 former fraternity brothers now face charges related to student Tim Piazza’s death from injuries he sustained falling down the basement stairs after a night of drinking and hazing rituals.
An initial estimate of Piazza’s blood alcohol content was nearly .40 percent (a fatal amount) according to the grand jury investigation results released in May when the original charges were announced.
Previous video evidence and statements, now combined with the new video evidence from the fraternity’s basement, paint a rather clear picture of exactly how much alcohol Piazza was forced to drink that night.
The first hazing activity of the night featured a handle of vodka passed down the line of pledges. If the bottle wasn’t emptied by the time it reached the last pledge in line, the last pledge would be required to finish all the remaining vodka.
On the night Piazza fell down the steps, the bottle still contained so much vodka when it reached the last pledge that pledge master Daniel Casey told the pledges to continue passing it up and down the line until they finished it. Each pledge, including Piazza, ultimately drank from the bottle three times. Assuming each pledge drank about the same amount, they would’ve had a little under a full shot each time the bottle passed them.
- 2.75 shots of vodka
The main event for Beta Theta Pi’s bid acceptance was a ritual referred to as “running the gauntlet” between various “drinking stations” the pledges were required to drink at. Fraternity brothers told the pledges to start the first stations one at a time and follow through the line.
During the “gauntlet,” pledges were forced to take 10-second “pulls” from a bottle of Crowne Rouse vodka (Let’s estimate this at two shots, though it was almost certainly more than that.), shotgun a beer, play a version of beer pong where most had to drink a cup of beer, and drink from a wine bag (A “standard” glass of wine is five ounces, so we’ll estimate this at half a drink, or a little more than two shots’ worth of wine.)
- 2 shots of vodka
- 2 beers
- 1/2 glass of wine
The new video evidence shows what happened during the social with Trilogy, a THON special interest organization that’s widely believed to be the underground reconvention of the suspended Delta Delta Delta sorority. Criminal complaints against those charged included a timeline of at least seven brothers giving alcohol to Piazza just during the social period of the night. Camera time, which does not correspond with real time that night, marks this period from 9:39 to 10:39.
- 1 beer
- 2 1/2 glasses of wine
- 4 shots of vodka
By our estimations based on what is spelled out in the grand jury presentment and new criminal complaints, Piazza consumed at least 15 “standard” drinks over the course of the night. Detective David Scicchitano said in the new criminal complaints he observed Piazza consuming at least 18 alcoholic drinks in an hour and 22 minute period.
The criminal complaints say Dr. Harry Kamerow, a State College pathologist, was able to backtrack Piazza’s blood alcohol content to between .28 and .36 percent when he fell down the basements steps for the first time around 11:22 p.m. Thursday, February 2 — about fifteen minutes after his last drink.
The morning after bid acceptance, when fraternity brothers spent more than 45 minutes deciding what to do before they called 911, pledge master Daniel Casey Googled “how would 9 drinks in an hour affect a 200 pound guy” and “how does a person act when their BAC is 1.6″ on his phone.
Little did he know how much alcohol Piazza had actually been forced to consume.