More Penn State frat members head to trial over pledge death
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Eleven more members of a Penn State fraternity are headed to trial over the death of a pledge after a judge ruled today prosecutors put on enough evidence to support hazing and alcohol-related criminal charges.
Judge Steven Lachman dismissed the most serious charges against the defendants. All reckless endangerment counts and allegations that a member of now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi had erased basement security video to thwart investigators were thrown out.
All 11 face at least one count of hazing and at least one alcohol-related charge for the events that occurred the night in February 2017, when Tim Piazza suffered a series of falls and was badly injured inside the fraternity house. In all, 25 fraternity members are charged.
Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, N.J., died of severe head and abdominal injuries after a night of drinking that followed a pledge bid acceptance ceremony. He fell down a set of basement steps, and the amount of alcohol in his system has been estimated at three or four times the state's legal limit for driving.
After a separate preliminary hearing, another judge previously sent charges against 14 other members of the fraternity to county court for trial. In that case, the attorney general's office is seeing to reinstate dismissed charges of involuntary manslaughter against five defendants.
Judge Lachman dismissed all three charges that Braxton Becker, 21, of Niskayuna, N.Y., had faced over the allegedly deleted security video – evidence tampering, obstruction and hindering apprehension or prosecution. A message left for his lawyer was not immediately returned.
The judge upheld a total of 35 counts of hazing and 37 alcohol-related offenses against the 11 defendants. In addition to Becker's charges, he also threw out five counts of reckless endangerment, 34 alcohol-related counts, two counts of hazing and one count of criminal conspiracy against various members of the group.
Atty. Jeff Veitch's client, 20-year-old Joshua Kurczewski of Erie, remains charged with nine counts of hazing and eight alcohol-related counts, but the judge dismissed reckless endangerment, one count of hazing, conspiracy and nine alcohol-related charges.