Judge Won't Reinstate Manslaughter Charges In Penn State Frat Death
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) — A judge has refused to reinstate involuntary manslaughter charges against five former Penn State fraternity members arrested in a pledge's hazing-related death last year.
Prosecutors sought to appeal a magistrate's decision to dismiss the most serious charges in the death of 19-year-old sophomore engineering student Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey. Piazza died of severe head and abdominal injuries after falling several times at the house the night of a bid acceptance ceremony and party.
Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest ruled Wednesday that the lower court decision could not be appealed. However, she said that prosecutors are free to refile the charges.
"We will continue to push to have this case heard by a higher court," said Joe Grace, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. "Our office remains committed to seeking justice for Timothy Piazza and his family."
After drinking heavily that night, Piazza had to be helped upstairs to a couch, but soon after he fell down the basement stairs and had to be carried back upstairs. He spent much of the ensuing evening and overnight on a couch, exhibiting signs of pain and discomfort.
Members of the fraternity took half-hearted and even counterproductive steps to address his condition, ultimately leaving him alone.
By the next morning, Piazza was back in the basement, where fraternity members found him unconscious. They carried him upstairs but waited 40 minutes to call for help.
A magistrate has twice tossed many of the most serious counts after conducting two preliminary hearings in the case.
Wednesday's ruling involved eight defendants, five of whom were charged with involuntary manslaughter. The magistrate dismissed less serious charges against the other three defendants, including reckless endangerment and conspiracy to commit hazing.