18 Penn State Frat Members Charged in Pledge’s Death

Timothy Piazza died after falling at a Beta Theta Pi frat party in February. Eight of the students have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity house via Google Maps

Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity house via Google Maps

This is a developing story.

Eighteen fraternity members at Pennsylvania State University have been charged in the death of 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza, who died in February after falling at a frat party.

The February incident prompted the university to ban the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and launch an aggressive crackdown on campus-wide Greek Life, enacting harsher supervision and a wave of restrictions affecting all fraternities and sororities at the university.

Following an investigation of Piazza’s death, eight members of Beta Theta Pi – and the fraternity itself – have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Ten additional members face other charges, including hazing, tampering with evidence and furnishing alcohol to minors.

According to police, Piazza was intoxicated when he fell at a party on February 2nd. Police said Piazza was knocked unconscious after the fall and that about 12 hours passed before anyone called for help. The 19-year-old had suffered a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen and fatal head injury, according to Philly.com, which reports that defense lawyers for students at the party said the students did not know that Piazza was in danger at the time of the fall. He died in a hospital on February 4th.

Officials at the Centre Country District Attorney’s Office found that “the Penn State Greek nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life,” according to a press release sent out by the organization today.

“Thus the Grand Jury concludes that the death of Timothy Piazza was not a result of isolated conduct or simple mistake (i.e. negligence),” the release reads. “Rather, the Grand Jury concludes that Timothy Piazza died as a direct result of the extremely reckless conduct of members at the Beta Fraternity who operated with the permissive atmosphere fostered by the Pennsylvania State Interfraternity Council.”

Eight of the students charged face possible prison time.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.