BELLEFONTE -- It was a shocking announcement out of Centre County that 18 fraternity brothers at Penn State University are being charged with the death of pledge.
That 19-year-old sophomore died following a fall and authorities say it happened during a hazing ritual at the fraternity house on the university’s main campus and the fraternity itself is also being charged.
One of the students arraigned today is the son of a prominent official in Lackawanna County.
Eight members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity walked into Centre County Courthouse where they were arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault for the death of 19-year-old Penn State Student Timothy Piazza of New Jersey.
The Centre County District Attorney called Piazza`s death totally preventable and charged the fraternity itself.
“It`s just heartbreaking all around, there`s no winners, you don`t win by even charging these young men because the only win is for him to be alive,” said District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
A grand jury found that Piazza was part of a hazing ritual at the frat house on Penn State`s main campus the night of February 2 and was forced to drink large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. Surveillance video shown to the grand jury shows Piazza falling down the basement steps of the frat house just before 11 o'clock that night.
Video shows that Piazza was brought to a couch where frat members tried to wake him and Piazza spending the night in and out of consciousness.
At one point video shows Piazza getting up to vomit; later he falls and hits his head several more times throughout the night.
Investigators say it was 12 hours after his initial fall when an ambulance was finally called.
The eight members arraigned face the most serious charges; among them is Gary DiBileo Jr. of Scranton, the son of Lackawanna County Controller Gary DiBileo.
The district attorney says the other members will be arraigned on lesser charges at a later date.
In that group is Ed Gilmartin, also from Scranton.
He faces one count of tampering with evidence since investigators allege members tried to cover up the hazing.
“In honor of our son and our committed to doing everything that we can to assure that no other parents will ever have to go through the pain and grief we are currently experiencing,” said James Piazza, the father of the victim.
Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi after Piazza’s death after a university investigation found a history of alcohol abuse and hazing at the fraternity.
Piazza’s death also prompted the university to impose new aggressive measures on all of its sororities and fraternities as it found similar growing problems with its Greek community.
The full grand jury presentment can be viewed here: Grand Jury Presentment of Charges Against Beta Theta Pi.