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18 frat members, frat, charged in Penn State student's fatal fall

18 Penn State frat members charged
18 Penn State frat members charged 04:12

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Eighteen members of a now-shuttered fraternity at Penn State University and the frat itself are facing criminal charges in the death of a student who was fatally injured in a fall during an alcohol-fueled pledge night.

Eight frat brothers at Beta Theta Pi and the frat are accused of involuntary manslaughter. The other charges range from evidence tampering to furnishing alcohol to minors.

Penn State frat house death 02:50

Police had said hazing and excessive drinking at the private chapter house Feb. 2 contributed to the death of Timothy Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering student from Lebanon, New Jersey.

Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi on March 30, accusing it of a "persistent pattern" of excessive drinking, drug use and hazing.

Help for Piazza apparently wasn't summoned until about 12 hours after he was injured during events surrounding a pledge acceptance ceremony.

Prosecutors allege in charging documents that Piazza fell down stairs in the house multiple times and the defendants didn't immediately call for help.

The documents say surveillance video shows four frat brothers carrying Piazza's unresponsive body up the stairs and placing him on a couch. There, they are allegedly seen unsuccessfully trying to wake him up by pouring liquid on his face. 

According to the documents, a newly-initiated brother said he tried to tell others Piazza could have a concussion and he should be taken to a hospital, but he said his concerns were ignored.  Another brother allegedly shoved him into a wall, and told him to leave because they had it under control.

Piazza regains consciousness and is seen grabbing his abdomen, staggering and falling, prosecutors say surveillance video shows. The next morning around 10 a.m., brothers found Piazza again at the bottom of the stairs, and again carried him up to a couch. Over 42 minutes, the video allegedly shows Piazza "lying in an unconscious state while Beta brothers shook him, attempted to prop his limp body up on the couch, covered him with a blanket, and attempted to dress him."

A brother calls 911 around 10:48 a.m., but doesn't mention the fall to a dispatcher, prosecutors say.

Piazza was found unconscious on a couch on the main floor when paramedics arrived after a call for help. He died two days later at a hospital.

Brothers allegedly later deleted text messages and covered up evidence, prosecutors say.

Fraternity members turned over security camera footage to police but later asked the court to return it.

Since Piazza's death, chapter alumnus Donald Abbey, a California real estate magnate, has sued the fraternity. He wants more than $10 million he says he loaned the chapter to fix up the house and shore up its finances.

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