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Frat brothers charged with covering up the real story of a pledge's death at a party

New charges have been filed in the death of Timothy Piazza after authorities recovered video footage from the fraternity house where Piazza died. (Image source: NBC News video screenshot)

Timothy Piazza was a 19-year-old student at Penn State University who was pledging Beta Theta Pi.

While he was at a fraternity party, he was put through “The Gauntlet,” a drinking game during which fraternity brothers force pledges to drink alcohol at different “stations” of the party.

Piazza was given at least 18 drinks within a 90 minute period. Later that night, Piazza fell down some stairs and was badly injured. His fraternity brothers didn’t call 911 for nearly 12 hours.

Piazza died from his injuries.

The cover-up

14 fraternity members were charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment after Piazza’s February death, but the most serious charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault were dismissed in September.

The story might have ended there, but State College police found evidence that camera footage of the basement where the party was held had been deleted before the equipment was seized.

FBI agents recovered video from the deleted hard drive, and the footage showed Piazza being given the 18 drinks.

Charges re-filed

17 people were charged Monday, 12 of them new defendants.

Five fraternity members have been charged with involuntary manslaughter (maximum sentence of 2.5 to 5 years) and aggravated assault (maximum sentence 10 to 20 years).

Braxton Becker, the fraternity house manager, was charged with tampering with evidence, obstructing administration of law, and hindering apprehension for manually deleting the video footage.

Comments on the case

Piazza’s father, James: “Tim was a happy and caring human being and a wonderful son who just wanted to join an organization to find friendships and camaraderie. Instead he was killed at the hands of those he was seeking friendship from. It’s time to man up, fellas, and be accountable for your actions.”

William J. Brennan, an attorney for one of the fraternity members: “I spent the summer successfully defending my client against charges that should never have been brought in the first place. I can’t imagine if there was evidence of hazing the DA didn’t have it when she brought the initial charge. This reeks of malicious prosecution at this point. Not every tragedy is a crime. While I have tremendous empathy for the Piazza family and pray for them every single day as a man and a father, as a lawyer, I’m outraged that this DA would charge my client again.”

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