Former Beta Theta Pi Brother Pleads Guilty To Alcohol Charges In Hazing Case

A former Beta Theta Pi member on Monday became the fifth defendant to enter a guilty plea in the case stemming from the death of Penn State sophomore and fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.

Jonathan P. Kanzler, 20, of Coopersburg, pleaded guilty to two counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, a third-degree misdemeanor. After a preliminary hearing in May, he had two counts of hazing, two liquor code violations and one count of consumption of alcohol held for trial. Those charges will be dropped, Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari said.

Kanzler was among the defendants charged in November 2017 after the recovery of deleted basement video footage from the fraternity’s bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017. He was seen holding up a bag of wine for Piazza and another pledge to drink from during a party that followed an alcohol-fueled initiation ceremony.

Investigators said Piazza was given 18 alcoholic drinks in a period of 82 minutes before he fell head-first down the basement stairs. Piazza died two days later as a result of non-recoverable brain injuries and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen. 

Entering his plea before Judge Brian Marshall at the Centre County Courthouse Annex on Monday, Kanzler waived his right to be sentenced within 90 days and sentencing was deferred until a later date.

Madaffari said Kanzler entered an open plea and so has no guarantee for a sentencing recommendation from the prosecution. He is likely to face fines of up to $1,000 for each count.

Ryan BurkeJoseph Ems, Bo Han Songand Patrick Jackson previously entered guilty pleas to various misdemeanor charges . Like Kanzler, Song and Jackson had hazing and liquor code charges dropped and pleaded to furnishing counts.

Kanzler also is the third defendant accused of providing alcohol directly to Piazza to plead guilty, joining Burke and Song.

Two more defendants currently are scheduled to enter guilty pleas. Michael A. Schiavone is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 22, and Aidan M. O’Brien is scheduled for Dec. 6.

Four others — Ryan Foster, Ed Gilmartin, Reginald Goeke, Craig Heimer — were accepted in September into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program.

Eleven defendants currently are scheduled for trial in February 2019. Another, Braxton Becker, is awaiting another preliminary hearing on refiled charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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