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DA Still Plans to Refile Dismissed Charges in Piazza Case

by Geoff Rushton

Former Beta Theta Pi fraternity members still facing charges in connection with the February death of Timothy Piazza have waived their rights to appear at formal arraignment, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Bellefonte, on the charges that were bound over earlier this month.

The Centre County District Attorney’s office last week filed information for the formal arraignments for the Alpha Upsilon chapter at Penn State and 12 of its 14 former brothers who had a variety of misdemeanors and summary offenses bound over to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 1. Information was filed earlier for two others who waived preliminary hearings on charges of tampering with evidence. According to court records, the individual defendants filed waivers to appear at arraignment, though there is no record of a waiver for the Alpha Upsilon chapter.

At the same time charges were bound over, District Judge Allen Sinclair dropped a host of other charges, including felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and simple assault, against eight men, and an involuntary manslaughter charge against the chapter, following a preliminary hearing that took place over seven days throughout the summer.

Various misdemeanor charges also were dismissed at the time, and four defendants facing single misdemeanor counts saw their cases dismissed.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller vowed at the time that her office would seek to refile the involuntary manslaughter charges and possibly other charges. On Tuesday night, she said that is still the case.

“We still have the same intentions,” Parks Miller said.

Charges that were bound over include hazing, recklessly endangering another person, furnishing alcohol to minors, unlawful acts relative to liquor, tampering with evidence, and consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Under Pennsylvania law the district attorney can refile charges that are dismissed at the district court level. Parks Miller will argue that Sinclair committed an error of law in dismissing charges and ask that he be moved aside for another district judge to determine if those charges should move forward.

Piazza, a 19-year-old-sophomore from Lebanon, N.J., died from brain injuries and internal bleeding caused by multiple falls during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance night at the fraternity that included a drinking gauntlet for pledges. Defense attorneys argued their clients’ limited roles in the night and that their actions didn’t meet the standards of recklessness and malice required for the most serious charges.

“This was an exceedingly reckless situation,” Parks Miller said after preliminary hearing earlier this month. “We described it as planning an event for maximum destruction to get people fatally drunk on purpose. As a result a young man died unnecessarily. We just think the charges needed to match that. Involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault match that behavior and they need to be held accountable for what they did.”

She also said at the time that Sinclair threw out the involuntary manslaughter charge against eight defendants and left reckless endangerment charges, but that the standard for recklessness in both charges was the same.

New charges also could still be filed in the case.

The surveillance video and equipment from inside the fraternity house that has been used extensively in the case is with the FBI for forensic analysis after investigators said earlier this summer they had evidence that video from the fraternity basement had been deleted. If video is recovered it could yield new evidence or charges.

Parks Miller said on Sept. 1 that her office would seek a new hearing on dismissed charges combined with any new charges that may arise.

The DA’s office also filed last week notice of its intention to try the remaining defendants together.

Those currently facing charges in the case are:

Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi – 50 counts of hazing, 48 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 48 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

Brendan Young –  Tampering with evidence, 14 counts of recklessly endangering another person, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, 12 counts of hazing

Daniel Casey – Tampering with evidence, 14 counts of recklessly endangering another person, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, 12 counts of hazing, consumption of alcohol by a minor

Jonah Neuman – Three counts of recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing, three counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, three counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, disorderly conduct, consumption of alcohol by a minor

Nicholas Kubera –  Six counts of recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing, five counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, five counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, consumption of alcohol by a minor

Michael Bonatucci – Five counts of recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing, four counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, four counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, consumption of alcohol by a minor

Gary DiBileo – 14 counts of recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, consumption of alcohol by a minor

Luke Visser -14 counts of recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

Joseph Sala – 14 counts of hazing, two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, two counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

Michael Angelo Schiavone – Recklessly endangering another person, 14 counts of hazing

Craig Heimer – 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

Lars Kenyon – 14 counts of hazing

Parker Jax Yochim – 14 counts of hazing, 12 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, 12 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor

Ed Gilmartin – Tampering with evidence

Ryan Foster – Tampering with evidence

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