Judge tosses involuntary manslaughter charges in Pa. frat death

Associated Press

A judge today threw out involuntary manslaughter and many of the other most serious remaining charges against 11 of the former Penn State fraternity members arrested in a pledge's hazing-related death last year, the second major blow to the prosecution's case.

District Judge Allen Sinclair dismissed all five involuntary manslaughter charges, along with all reckless endangerment and hazing counts before him during the three-day hearing that wrapped up late Tuesday, sending to county court for trial only alcohol violations and, against two defendants, single counts of conspiracy to commit hazing.

The case involves the February 2017 death of 19-year-old sophomore engineering student Tim Piazza of Lebanon, N.J., who died of severe head and abdominal injuries after falling several times at the house the night of a bid-acceptance ceremony and party.

Security video recovered from the house showed him and other pledges being plied with alcohol, and authorities later estimated Piazza had consumed three to four times the state's legal limit of alcohol for drivers.

The district judge had previously tossed many of those same counts Sept. 1, after an eight-day preliminary hearing. The county district attorney subsequently refiled many of those charges, and more were added. There also were new defendants charged after the FBI was able to recover deleted security-camera footage from the basement. A preliminary hearing for those defendants is scheduled to begin May 2.

Defense attorney Leonard Ambrose, representing Joseph Sala, called the refiled charges "a total waste of time." All 39 counts against Sala that were in play during the hearing were dismissed, leaving him with 14 counts of hazing and four alcohol-related charges that Sinclair had upheld in September.

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