Hearing underway for frat brothers in Penn St pledge's death

Hearing underway for frat brothers in Penn St pledge's death

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — Security camera footage of the night a Penn State pledge was fatally injured at a fraternity event is expected to be at the center of a court hearing.

The footage recorded Piazza falling down a flight of stairs at 11:22 p.m.

Piazza was carried upstairs after the fall, appearing unconscious. "He looked like a corpse".

In a May 18 letter to fraternity members, Beta Theta Pi house corporation attorney Mark Bernlohr said he reviewed the tapes and disagreed "with the vast majority of the factual and legal conclusions" prosecutors have reached. The surveillance videos, which allegedly show Piazza's agonizing final hours at the frat house, are a key part of the prosecution's case.

An investigation, according to the grand jury report, also revealed members discussed what to do and discussed ways to cover up what happened before calling 9-1-1 on the morning of Feb 3. He says the family hasn't decided whether they'll be in the courtroom when the surveillance videos are played.

The defendants face various charges, with some accused of involuntary manslaughter and felony aggravated assault.

Just two of the 18 defendants waived their right to a preliminary hearing.

After taking part in a hazing ritual nicknamed "The Gauntlet", in which pledges were instructed to drink copious amounts of alcohol on February 2, Piazza's BAC reached between 0.28 and 0.36, according to the doctor's report read by Scicchitano at the hearing. One of the members not charged has told ABC's Robin Roberts he tried to get Piazza help. Almost 12 hours passed before anyone called for an ambulance, the grand jury presentment said.

Penn State has permanently banned the fraternity after finding a persistent pattern of excessive drinking and hazing.

The move comes a week after the university laid out a series of steps regarding the future of the Greek system on campus that will make Penn State the authority when it comes to discipline for fraternities and sororities instead of the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Multicultural Greek Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Attorney Rocco Cipparone Jr., who represents Michael Bonatucci (who faces eight charges in Piazza's death), said, "I know the Bonatucci family and Michael in particular, certainly feel empathy and sympathy for the Piazza family". The response, in a word, is heartening. And our promise to you is that we will always strive to provide indispensable journalism to our community.

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