Defense Lawyers Question Investigation in Penn State Hazing Case

BELLEFONTE -- More than a dozen fraternity brothers believed to be involved in the death of a fellow Penn State student returned to court in Centre County Tuesday.

The men are in Bellefonte for a hearing that will decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial.

At times, it was very tense in court as each of the defense lawyers had an opportunity to answer the prosecution's claims.

More than a dozen defense lawyers, including the attorney for Gary DiBileo Jr. of Scranton, are now getting their chance in front of a judge in Centre County.

Charges in the case range from involuntary manslaughter to tampering with evidence.

Because each fraternity brother was charged separately, their lawyers are also going one by one.

"It makes the case kind of like a superstorm but I would prefer to be separated from the rest of the defendants," said William Brennan, defense lawyer for Joseph Ems.

The Centre County district attorney is trying to make the case that these frat brothers knew they were negligent and tried to hide evidence after Timothy Piazza fell down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking. The 19-year-old from New Jersey later died.

In the afternoon, attorney Mike Engle argued that his client Gary DiBileo Jr. of Scranton wanted to call 911.

While questioning one of the investigators, Engle said DiBileo may have been scared off after seeing another fraternity brother bullied by frat leaders when he tried to call for help.

DiBileo never called 911, but another fraternity member eventually did.

"Tim Piazza's father Jim Piazza told me yesterday walking out of the courthouse there isn't a moment during these hearings that he doesn't think about Tim and think about how much he and his wife miss him," said Tom Kline, attorney for Piazza's parents.

Surveillance video played in court last month showed Piazza visibly drunk and injured. Prosecutors say he got those injuries when he fell down the basement stairs twice at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

During questioning by defense attorneys, investigators couldn't say for sure if Piazza actually fell down the steps or walked down and got hurt some other way. One defense attorney worked to prove Piazza wasn't forced to drink -- an argument the family's attorney rejects.

"These young men were expected to drink in order to belong, in order to be part of the brotherhood," said Kline. "'I am going to be accountable,' said one in a text message we saw in this courtroom. 'I may go to jail,' and he is likely to be right about that."

Nearly a dozen more lawyers will have their chance in front of the judge before a decision is made.

The next court date is expected to be sometime in mid-August.

7 comments

  • Geno

    The 2 Scranton boys have their Daddy’s Insurance businesses to fall back on. Don’t feel sorry for them. The other kids will have permanent charges against them and will have trouble finding decent jobs in their future.

  • Tilly

    The college boys ( who clean up so nice for court ) should own up to their stupidity. Somebody DIED because of these fools. Lock them up and they can be part of a bigger fraternity: State Prison. Football season is right around the corner- better get this over with so it doesn’t impact ad revenue.

  • Jay Walsh

    This has been going on for a long time, at no time should alcohol be part of entry into a frat, this is what you reap as a result.
    This was a huge turn off when I was a student, thus didn’t become a pledge.

  • El Ma

    Are you kidding me? What a circus and, in the end, all of these young men are going to skip away from the trials and go on their merry ways. Nothing is going to happen to any of them, and they’re going to just go on with their lives without one backwards glance.

    ……….what a world………

  • Lance

    This was a tragic accident and the victim drank willingly. He was responsible just like the others. Their fault was not getting him help quickly. They panicked. Yes they are to be held accountable but the blame was stupidity all around. The prosecution should consider that

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