Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke publicly for the first time on Tuesday about the prosecution of fraternity members in the hazing death of Penn State student Tim Piazza. Shapiro detailed why, after completing an “independent and comprehensive” review, his office is fighting to reinstate involuntary manslaughter charges against five defendants and drop those charges against some others.
The Attorney General’s office announced last week that they had filed an appeal to Centre County Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair’s dismissal of charges against eight defendants, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
At Tuesday’s press conference that number was down to five. Shapiro said he’s seeking reinstatement of involuntary manslaughter charges against Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Gary Dibileo and Luke Visser.
“We believe the elements of involuntary manslaughter were clearly met, when applied to the actions of those five defendants,” Shapiro said.
He said the prosecution’s four-month review determined that those five defendants planned and participated in hazing, were aware of Tim Piazza’s fall and failed to get Piazza the help he needed.
“We concluded that some, though not all, of the charges that were initially dismissed in 2017 and refiled prior to our involvement warranted our continued effort to pursue on behalf of the commonwealth and the Piazza family,” Shapiro said. “This included involuntary manslaughter charges pertaining to five of the defendants and reckless endangerment and conspiracy charges against many others.”
Shapiro said he’s confident that charges will be reinstated and his office will “use whatever legal tools we have” to proceed with the case.
President Judge of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas Pamela Ruest will make a decision on the appeal. Previously, she supported Sinclair’s dismissal last September. Shapiro said, if necessary, his office will take the issue to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Another preliminary hearing in this case regarding 12 new defendants will head to court on Wednesday. They were charged last November by former Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, who brought involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges against five of these 12.
These 12 will no longer face those severe charges, but instead relatively minor items including hazing and furnishing.
He also urged the Pennsylvania legislature to pass the anti-hazing bill named after Tim Piazza, introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and supported by the Piazzas and Penn State. The bill passed the Senate in April.
Piazza’s father Jim spoke briefly and thanked the AG’s office for “not giving up.”