Magistrate District Judge Allen Sinclair yesterday dismissed most of the more serious charges against eighteen members of the Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity related to the hazing death of pledge Timothy Piazza. Fourteen still face trial on the remaining charges. District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she would refile manslaughter and assault charges.
Back in Bellefonte last week for two more days of preliminary hearing into the death of Penn State frat house pledge Timothy Piazza. Not an easy assignment. Not because of the challenge of drawing the ornate courtroom crowded with multiple defendants – eighteen charged, I think, though not all were present – and their lawyers, rather because of the anguish, and anger, and grief that were not just present but displayed and expressed.
A preliminary hearing began yesterday for members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State charged in the death Timothy Piazza. Piazza was one of the pledges made to run a gantlet of drinking stations on the night of February 2. He suffered serious injuries while falling-down drunk, including a skull fracture and ruptured spleen.
Piazza’s parents were in the Bellefonte courtroom as the hearing got underway. Timothy’s father visibly struggled with grief, his fingers shaking, when a photo of his unconscious son, intubated in the ICU was exhibited on a screen.
Difficult to watch closed-circuit video of Timothy Piazza’s dying hours showed him alone through the night, still inebriated and in pain, stumbling and thrashing about on the frat house ground floor.
By morning, as the house wakes up, Piazza is found in the basement and brought upstairs. His skin is gray, his legs and arms rigid . . . he appears dead. Yet no one calls 911. The frat brothers move him to a couch, put a blanket on him, try to put a t-shirt on him, and start cleaning up the house. Some just stand around, cell phones in hand.
District attorney Stacy Parks Miller repeatedly asks the witness, Detective Scicchitano, “Has anyone called 911 yet?” For the longest time the answer is “No”.
The week before last – time flies, I’ve been busy – I went on the road to cover two hearings a few hundred miles apart though in some ways alike. Both defendants were at one time coaches, and both are suspected of sexual relations with young boys.
In Chicago former House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty to a felony charge of concealing large withdrawals of cash. By doing so he avoided a trial and possible testimony from the victim he was paying off.
The next day, in Bellefonte, PA, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky appeared in court as his lawyer sought to challenge the grand jury investigation that led to the charges of child sexual abuse of which Sandusky was convicted in 2012.
Here are my sketches from the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky in Bellefonte, Pa. Tuesday. A little late in posting them, but better late….
Sara Ganim’s story here.