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Former Penn State Fraternity Member Sentenced To House Arrest, Probation In Hazing Case

Philip Masorti (second from right) spoke to reporters outside the courthouse after the sentencing of his client, Ryan Burke (right), on Tuesday.
Min Xian
Philip Masorti (second from right) spoke to reporters outside the courthouse after the sentencing of his client, Ryan Burke (right), on Tuesday.

The first and, so far, only former Penn State fraternity member who pleaded guilty in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza was sentenced on Tuesday.

Ryan Burke, the “rush chair” who was in charge of recruitment for Penn State’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity, was sentenced to three months of house arrest, over two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and fines.

He pleaded guilty to nine counts of charges in hazing and alcohol violations, including giving vodka to 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, who died after a night of hazing in 2017.

The state Attorney General’s office had asked for 30 days jail time. Burke’s attorney said the punishment was fair and, in court, Burke gave a brief statement, saying he was “truly sorry.”

Burke originally faced other charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and simple assault, but the Attorney General’s office withdrew those before the preliminary hearing in March after it took over the case. A judge also cleared the charges of reckless endangerment and furnishing against Burke in May.

In his victim impact statement, Jim Piazza, the father of Tim, said he was pleased that Burke stepped up but questioned his remorse.

“He had more than a year to come forward to cooperate with and help the prosecutors,” Piazza said. “I am sure his attorneys will argue he is a first-time offender. However, he is not a first-time offender, this just happens to be the first time he got caught.”

“Our family is incomplete and it will be forever,” Piazza said. “We keep trying to fill the void but there is no way to replace what we lost.” He asked for more punitive anti-hazing laws to be passed.

In March, state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman proposed an anti-hazing bill that would toughen hazing penalties in Pennsylvania. Although the bill wouldn’t apply to this case, under the proposal, hazing resulting in serious bodily injury or death would be a third-degree felony. It’s currently a third-degree misdemeanor.

The bill passed the state Senate unanimously but has been tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Nearly two dozen other former fraternity brothers are scheduled to go on trial in February 2019.

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