Judge Drops Most Severe Charges For Second Group In Penn State Hazing Case, 11 More Head To Trial

May 7, 2018

A judge has dismissed the more severe charges against a second group of defendants in relation to the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza. With the ruling issued, a set of 25 former Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers will head to trial. 

Among this group of 12 defendants, five of the brothers, Joshua Kurczewski, Ryan Burke, Jonathan Kanzler, Bohan Song and Aiden O’Brien, were each charged with reckless endangerment, which is a second degree misdemeanor. 

Centre County judge Steve Lachman dismissed all of these reckless endangerment charges as well as all furnishing charges. He bound over for trial a total of 35 counts of hazing against 11 defendants. 

The judge also dismissed charges of tampering, obstruction and hindering apprehension against fraternity house manager, Braxton Becker. He allegedly deleted security footage from the basement of the house. The recovered footage was the basis of charges filed against this group of brothers. 

Prosecution compiled video clips detailing each individual’s actions on the night of bid acceptance in February 2017. In the clips shown in court, the brothers could be seen during the drinking obstacle course that Tim Piazza and 13 other pledges went through, and many brothers gave alcohol to the pledges. 

Prosecutors said the video showed fraternity members gave Piazza 18 drinks in 82 minutes. His blood alcohol concentration rose to a level between 0.28 percent and 0.36 percent. He died two days after he fell inside the house, from brain injuries and a ruptured spleen.

Preliminary hearings for this case started about a year ago. Another district judge has twice dismissed serious charges—including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault—against 14 others also charged in the case. 

Altogether, 25 defendants will go to trial for charges varying from conspiracy to commit hazing to furnishing. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro took over the case after Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna recused himself due to conflicts of interests. 

Shapiro is appealing to reinstate involuntary manslaughter charges against five defendants in the case, including president of Beta Theta Pi, Brendan Young. 

Shapiro’s office issued a statement, saying they are reviewing the judge’s decision. According to a statement from Tom Kline, lawyer for the Piazza family, the Piazzas are hopeful the Attorney General will appeal the dismissal from Lachman.