Pa. Attorney general wants some manslaughter charges restored in pledge’s hazing death

Courtesy Piazza Family(NEW YORK) -- Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that he wants a judge to restore involuntary manslaughter charges against five fraternity brothers he claims had a hand in last year's hazing death of Penn State fraternity pledge Tim Piazza.

Piazza was a 19-year-old sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, who died after consuming an excessive amount of alcohol and then falling down stairs at the Beta Theta Pi house on Feb. 2, 2017.

In March, a Pennsylvania judge, citing a lack of evidence, dismissed involuntary manslaughter and assault charges that were originally filed against some of the fraternity members.

Shapiro summed up involuntary manslaughter as "a negligent homicide."

He went on to add that someone is guilty of involuntary manslaughter "when a direct result of doing an unlawful act in a reckless or grossly negligent manner -- or in doing a lawful act in a grossly negligent manner -- causes the death of a person."

Shapiro said evidence for involuntary manslaughter was "clearly met" for five fraternity members, but said that nobody in the fraternity should be charged with aggravated assault.

"Our review of the evidence and Pennsylvania law led us to the conclusion that while the conduct alone constituted 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,” he said.

The three prongs, he said, involve participating in the drinking gauntlet, knowing about Piazza’s fall and failing to render aid.

“They must be held accountable for their individual actions, their respective roles in planning that fateful night, in failing to render aid and in leaving Tim to die in their fraternity house,” Shapiro said. “We are committed to holding every responsible individual accountable now in a court of law for their actions at Beta Theta Pi on that night in February 2017."

Separately, Shapiro announced he had dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against five others.

Penn State has since barred the fraternity from its campus.

Shapiro said he's also looking to reinstate charges of reckless endangerment against six defendants, hazing against two and conspiracy against eight, all charges that were thrown out earlier.

Altogether, 26 defendants are facing charges related to Piazza's death.

Penn State University said in a statement that it conducted its own probe into Piazza's death and found that some students had violated the school's Student Code of Conduct. Those students were either expelled or placed on probation, the university said.

"While this criminal process continues, we should not lose sight of the tragic loss of a student, Timothy Piazza," Penn State said in a statement. "We must all do everything we can to help prevent future tragedies. Penn State remains committed to continue implementing our aggressive measures, and to working with others to affect the lasting change required."

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