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Penn State showed "shocking apathy" to dangers from excessive drinking, grand jury says

Tim Piazza

CBS News

Last Updated Dec 15, 2017 10:54 AM EST

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A grand jury's report in the wake of a pledge's drinking death says that Penn State officials displayed "a shocking apathy" to dangers from excessive drinking and that its inaction allowed criminal acts to occur. The report released Friday by a district attorney in Pennsylvania recommends a series of changes that the school should undertake in the wake of the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza in February.

A Penn State spokesman did not have an immediate comment.

The school permanently banned Beta Theta Pi in March, saying its investigation found a persistent pattern of excessive and forced drinking, hazing and drug use and sales. 

The report calls on state lawmakers to pass stronger laws to deter hazing and underage drinking. It also calls on Penn State to regulate drinking itself, rather than hold a fraternity council responsible. 

Piazza died in February after falling down a flight of stairs while attending a fraternity pledge bid event at the university. He suffered head trauma and a ruptured spleen from the fall.

Authorities say his fraternity brothers gave him 18 drinks in under one hour and 22 minutes. But Piazza never obtained the drinks himself.

Surveillance video reportedly shows Piazza repeatedly falling, passing out and tumbling head-first down a flight of stairs. 

For several hours members of the fraternity appeared to take half-hearted and counterproductive measures to tend to their injured friend by pouring liquid on him and strapping on a loaded backpack to prevent him from rolling over and choking on vomit.

In the early morning hours Piazza was pictured stumbling from the couch to other areas of the house's first floor, including falls into a door and onto a stone floor. He somehow ended up back in the basement the next morning and was again carried back upstairs to a couch.

It took another 40 minutes for fraternity members to call an ambulance.

Authorities said Piazza had ingested a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered severe head and abdominal injuries. He soon died at a hospital.  

In November, the district attorney's office announced new charges in Piazza's death after reviewing the fraternity's basement surveillance footage, which was deleted by a fraternity member. Twelve additional members now face charges in the investigation.

Of the 17 members already charged, five now face manslaughter charges. Other charges include assault, reckless endangerment, giving alcohol to minors, hazing and tampering with evidence.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the trial and whatever else comes out of the investigation really," Piazza's father, Jim, told CBS News. "Because we need to put a stop to it."