Penn State Fraternity Death Hearing Continues in Centre County

BELLEFONTE -- Penn State fraternity members returned to court Thursday in Centre County for a hearing to determine if they should go on trial for the death of a pledge.

Investigators now believe video surveillance that could prove a Penn State student fell down a flight of stairs after a night of drinking was deleted before police could view it.

For the fourth day, 16 Penn State fraternity brothers took their turn walking past crowds of cameras on their way into the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.

These men are back in Bellefonte for a hearing after being charged in the death of a pledge -- Penn State student Timothy Piazza.

In February, after a night of drinking, the 19-year-old student from New Jersey fell down a flight of stairs at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at Penn State. He later died.

With his lawyer alongside him, Gary DiBileo Jr. of Scranton carried a large box with him into court.

Now that DiBileo's lawyer Mike Engle has cross examined, he and over a dozen other lawyers are waiting to see if their cases will go to trial.

"We were happy that was finally out there. He was one of the people that wanted to call 911, who sought help for Timothy Piazza. Unfortunately, he fell in the category as several other individuals who was discouraged by various members of the fraternity," said Engle.

Earlier this year, the Centre County district attorney showed surveillance video from the frat house the night of the fall in court. She's hoping to prove frat brothers hid evidence and were negligent in waiting hours to call 911 after Piazza's fall.

In court Thursday, investigators said they believe video surveillance that could have captured the moments Piazza fell down the stairs was deleted before police could see it.

"That is something that is just unacceptable," said Piazza family lawyer Tom Kline. "If that tape was erased then this cover up is much larger than we even anticipated or expected or have known about,."

Along with the 16 fraternity brothers charged, the Piazza family has been in Bellefonte for every court hearing.

One attorney claimed video showing Piazza walking seemingly unimpaired the next morning was never shown in court. That video was played on Thursday.

"Tim Piazza was, without a question, staggering and stumbling when he came back from the door and any argument to the contrary from the lawyer is just flat out preposterous."

In all, 18 fraternity brothers were charged.  Two, including Ed Gilmartin of Scranton, gave up their right to this hearing.

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13 comments

  • Archie Beal

    My view is that boys will be boys…the kid that died is most at fault. He should not have drank like that just to impress his friends. Where did it get him other then the real last call. This chap was a college student so I would believe he had some intelligence. Stop trying to put the blame on others and realize the dead kid here made the choice to drink like a drunken sailor on leave.

  • Lance

    Yes these kids should be held accountable. The texts conspiracy to hide evidence proves their guilt. But all that aside. The victim did drink willingly. The only fault that these kids did was not get help in time and cover up the scene. Punishment certainly but the blame goes all the way round.

    • CeeMe

      Yeah, I think we all know the kid drank willingly, but egged on by drunken frat boys, who then didn’t get him help. Help, that if done in a timely manner, instead of walking around him and jumping on him, might have saved his life.

    • El Ma

      These men were charged with negligence which “contributed” to Piazza’s death. There’s no dispute that Piazza chose to drink for the hazing event, but the frat brothers who stood by clearly took calculated and deliberate steps to not only avoid calling for help, but to cover up the entire incident. Surveillance video and text messages are irrefutable evidence that these young men had no conscience with regard to their own culpability in this tragedy.

      Thanks to the movie, “Animal House,” alcohol-related frat hazing went to the next level. The university should be held just as liable as the frat brothers that stood by and did nothing. This “ritual” has gotten way out of hand, and there should be consequences for the institution that isn’t paying attention to what the members of their student body are doing. There was a time when a university student was held accountable for their behaviors. Today? All bets are off, and drunken hazing and “slut-walks” are replacing Biology 101 and Principles of Engineering.

  • What a joke!

    They are guilty. The text messages alone are enough. They knew what they were doing. Drink hazing is disgusting. Heck any type of hazing is disgusting. I get they only want certain members in the fraternities but they can find some other way to go about it. Now a 19 yr old man is dead because of their little ” rituals”. I pray the family and the deceased young man yet the justice they so deserve. May he R.I.P.

  • Writer Girl

    Determine if they should go to trial? Really??? They absolutely should go to trial and be held accountable for their actions and neglect. The victim and his family need justice and so does society.

    • ADAMTHOMAS

      I agree those kids had totally disregard for life. They didnt even call 911 when he was dying. But maybe the got rich alumni dads from the Philly area. they seem to run things up PSU