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Judge tosses top charges in Penn State fraternity death

02 September 2017

Fourteen members of a disbanded Penn State fraternity must stand trial in the hazing death of a pledge, but a judge on Friday tossed out the most serious charges, including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Eighteen former brothers were charged for their alleged roles in Piazza's death.

Eight members, including fraternity president Brandon Young, face felony charges that could result in many years in prison.

"We're going to challenge any of these charges that were bound over that we feel shouldn't have been", said attorney Andy Shubin, whose client Nick Kubera, 19, still faces six counts of reckless endangerment, down from 14, as well as hazing and alcohol law allegations.

Prosecutors painted the fraternity brothers as pressuring their pledges to drink at unsafe levels, while defense attorneys said their various clients didn't know the full extent of what happened that night and Piazza wasn't forced to consume alcohol after the initial pledge ritual. Two defendants waived the hearing. He is charged with tampering with evidence. The most serious charges against him were dismissed, but he is still charged with counts of hazing and furnishing alcohol.

She said the speed-drinking gauntlet that Piazza and other pledges were run through was designed by the group "for maximum devastation".

Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died of multiple injuries suffered while drunkenly falling multiple times, including twice down a flight of stairs, during hazing activities on the night of February 2 at the fraternity house near the Penn State campus in State College.

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"Sometimes judges get it wrong - that's why we have an appeal", she said.

Defense attorney Michael Engle argued that "the voluntariness of the drinking" is an important factor when considering Piazza's fate.

The decision followed a hard-fought, unusually long preliminary hearing in which the defendants and a platoon of defense attorneys wedged into the courtroom fought against allegations that a night of hazing and heavy drinking caused the death of Tim Piazza on February 4.

An attorney for the head trainer for Penn State's football team argued Wednesday that he should not testify, saying Tim Bream has no evidence that could help exonerate the former members of Beta Theta Pi. He later died at a hospital.

Timothy Piazza's parents sat front row once again when the first closing arguments opened this morning.

"This is no day for celebration for anyone", Kline said. They argued the students had little reason to anticipate tragic results from a night that also included an alcohol-fueled social mixer with a sorority group.

Defense attorneys want to question Tim Bream about what he knew about events leading up to the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.

Judge tosses top charges in Penn State fraternity death