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Another Former Beta Theta Pi Brother Pleads Guilty In Hazing Case

A day after four former Beta Theta Pi brothers entered guilty pleas in the Penn State fraternity hazing case, another did the same on Friday.

Jonah D. Neuman became the 14th defendant in the case to plead guilty to negotiated misdemeanor charges. He pleaded to three counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy to commit hazing.

As part of the plea, he had charges recklessly endangering another person, furnishing alcohol to minors, liquor code violations, disorderly conduct, and additional counts of hazing dropped. Additional charges, including aggravated assault, simple assault and involuntary manslaughter, previously were dismissed after multiple preliminary hearings.

He requested immediate sentencing, which was opposed by Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari. Centre County Judge Brian Marshall ordered a pre-sentencing investigation and scheduled sentencing for March 26.

Neuman, 21, of Nashville, Tenn., was not accused of providing alcohol directly to pledge Timothy Piazza, whose death following bid acceptance night on Feb. 2, 2017, prompted the investigation that led to charges against more than two dozen fraternity members and a permanent ban of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn State.

Fraternity house video showed Piazza was given 18 drinks in 82 minutes during the initiation event and basement party that followed before he fell head-first down the basement stairs. Piazza sustained a series of other falls throughout the night and paramedics were not called until the following morning, nearly 12 hours after his fall down the stairs. He died on Feb. 4, 2017 as a result of brain injuries, head trauma and massive internal bleeding from a shattered spleen, according to a medical examiner.

The hazing charges Neuman pleaded guilty to are related to providing beer to three other pledges during the “gauntlet,” a series of drinking stations in which pledges were encouraged to rapidly consume alcohol. His attorneys said at preliminary hearings that he had no role in the planning and participated at the last minute by handing out beer cans.

Neuman was one of four brothers who carried an unconscious Piazza to the fraternity’s first floor after the 19-year-old sophomore fell down the basement stairs. Former fraternity brother Kordel Davis, who is not charged in the case, told police that when he saw Piazza on a couch later that night he advocated calling for help but that Neuman told him “they had it under control.” Video showed Neuman then pushing Davis away.

At a preliminary hearing, Neuman’s attorney, Daniel McGee, said that his client thought Piazza only had too much to drink and spent time tending to him. When Neuman went to bed, three other fraternity members were with Piazza, not believing he was seriously injured, McGee said.

Neuman had been scheduled to go on trial beginning Feb. 14, along with Michael Bonatucci, Nicholas Kubera and Joshua Kurczewski. Bonatucci and Kubera are scheduled to enter guilty pleas on Jan. 15, according to court dockets, which would leave, for now, only Kurczewski as a defendant in that trial.

Another trial in the case, which was scheduled to begin Feb. 6, was eliminated on Thursday when its three defendants — Brian Gelb, Michael Fernandez and Donald Prior — pleaded guilty. Joseph Sala, whose trial had not been scheduled, also entered a plea on Thursday.

Former fraternity president Brendan Young and pledgemaster Daniel Casey — who face the most charges in the case — are the defendants in the third trial, which is scheduled to begin April 3.

Braxton Becker, who was accused of deleting basement video which was later recovered, had charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction held over, but a trial date has not yet been scheduled.

Ryan Burke, Gary DiBileo, Joseph Ems, Patrick Jackson, Jonathan Kanzler, Aidan O’Brien  Michael Angelo Schiavone, Bo Han Song and Luke Visser previously pleaded guilty to various misdemeanor charges.

Ryan Foster, Ed Gilmartin, Reginald Goeke, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon and Parker Yochim were accepted into ARD programs.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

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

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