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More Fraternity Members’ Texts Revealed in Court

BELLEFONTE, Pa. --  Tuesday marked the third day of the preliminary hearing for 11 fraternity brothers charged in connection with a pledge's death just over a year ago.

Defense attorneys are trying to poke holes in the prosecution's case, and now, some are bringing up the victim's alleged history of drug use and partying to do it.

As the attorney for Gary DiBileo started off at the beginning of the hearing, "Here we go again."

Defense lawyers are arguing against some new evidence, but for the most part, they're working to prove the same thing as last time. They claim the fraternity members are not to blame for the death of Timothy Piazza.

Just one day after a judge in the Centre County Courthouse saw new video evidence from the basement of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, defense teams were able to cross-examine a State College police detective.

Most defense attorneys claimed their clients didn't know the extent of Timothy Piazza's injuries after the 19-year-old student fell down a flight of stairs at the frat house on Penn State's main campus in February of last year.

Investigators say Piazza drank heavily during a hazing ritual at the frat house before falling several times. Piazza suffered serious injuries and later died.

No new details -- that's what several defense attorneys claimed in their closing arguments in Centre County court during the preliminary hearing involving 11 former Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers.

According to investigators, in February of last year, Timothy Piazza, 19, from New Jersey, drank heavily during a hazing ritual at the frat house on Penn State's main campus before falling several times. Piazza suffered serious injuries and later died.

"This was an alcohol poisoning. Make no mistake about it. This was a hazing event. Make no mistake about it. This was an involuntary drinking event because you needed to drink to get into this fraternity. Make no mistake about it," said the Piazza family's attorney Tom Kline.

This is the second preliminary hearing in front of the same judge for the fraternity brothers.

The former Centre County district attorney refiled several charges that were dismissed last year. Then a new D.A. took office and referred the case to the state attorney general.

Michael Engle represents Gary DiBileo of Scranton who faces charges including involuntary manslaughter.

"We were able to bring out new evidence at the prior preliminary hearing," said attorney Michael Engle.

In court, Engle shared a string of text messages between DiBileo and his roommate who wasn't charged.

Engle believes those messages prove that DiBileo did not know how badly Piazza was injured and wanted to get him help.

"It's the same reason why the judge got it right dismissing the charge previously, why the president judge of the county said there was no error of law when he did that, and why we hope he is going to do it again soon," Engle said.

In one text read aloud in court, DiBileo said, "I didn't see the fall. I didn't know the extent of it either. The whole situation is confusing."

"Now that the judge saw the full context of what was said, there's an appreciation of the fact that Gary didn't understand exactly how serious the injury was," said Engle.

Other defense attorneys tried to use text messages between Piazza and a group of friends to show that Piazza had a history of drinking and drug use.

But the lawyer for the Piazza family argues that those texts prove nothing.

"All of this is a red herring and a rabbit hole they would like the judge potentially to go down," said Piazza family attorney Tom Kline.

The 11 fraternity members have been excused from this hearing.

The judge did not make a ruling on Tuesday. He is expected to announce a decision on Wednesday.

1 Comment

  • donamick

    much sarcasm…
    I’m surprised these doucebags didn’t run with the ‘affluent’ angle.
    because we all know that if this was any other school these MFers would be hanging by now! Fact.

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