HARRISBURG (KDKA) – State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is vowing to work tirelessly until someone is held accountable for a Penn State student’s death.
Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old student, died after drinking an excessive amount of alcohol at the Beta Theta Pi house during a pledge event. He later fell down the stairs, suffering serious injuries.
Investigators say his blood alcohol content was more than four times the legal limit.
On Wednesday, Shapiro plans to file charges against 12 additional members of the fraternity.
“These defendants have been charged with hazing, with furnishing alcohol to minors, and where appropriate, reckless endangerment of another person,” says Shapiro.
Prosecutors are also dropping involuntary manslaughter and assault charges, which were filed against five other fraternity members in the case. Officials say, there’s not enough evidence to move forward.
“While the conduct alone constitutes crimes for which we are vigorously pursuing justice, the more serious charge of involuntary manslaughter is appropriate only for individuals who we can prove met all three prongs,” says Shapiro.
Those “prongs” are the three main focal points of Shapiro’s investigation. He says that alcohol is a key part of the case, but that other factors need to be taken into consideration, too.
The three prongs include: Who planned or participated in the drinking event, who knew about Piazza’s fall, and why didn’t they call for help.
Prosecutors believe a delay in medical treatment contributed to Piazza’s death.
“They must be held accountable for their individual actions, for their respective roles in planning that fateful night, in failing to render aid, and in leaving Tim to die in their fraternity house,” says Shapiro.
Shapiro says he still wants the case to go to trial, and hopes to find justice for Piazza’s family.
“We are committed to holding every responsible individual accountable for their actions in this tragedy,” says Shapiro.
During Tuesday’s announcement, Shapiro also backed anti-hazing legislation, which is currently making its way through Harrisburg.
It would elevate hazing to a felony status in Pennsylvania.
Currently, hazing is a low-level misdemeanor. It carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in prison.
If it was changed to felony status, hazing would carry a maximum seven year sentence.
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