Penn State's 'shocking apathy' to
drinking blamed in hazing death
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[December 16, 2017]
By David DeKok
BELLEFONTE, Pa. (Reuters) - Pennsylvania
State University's "shocking apathy" to alcohol abuse contributed to the
death of a student after he consumed 18 drinks in less than an hour and
a half during a fraternity initiation, according a report issued on
Grand jury members wrote the report after hearing testimony on hazing
and alcohol use within the sprawling university's fraternity system.
Prosecutors issued it at Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
10 months the death of Timothy Piazza, 19.
Piazza, a sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, tumbled down two flights
of stairs and seriously injured himself while intoxicated at the party.
He died two days after the alcohol-fueled hazing ritual.
He had been served at least 18 drinks within 82 minutes at the event for
prospective members, or "pledges" at Beta Theta Pi house, said Stacy
Parks Miller, Centre County's district attorney. Some 26 fraternity
members face charges, but the grand jury said Penn State should take
ultimate responsibility for guarding against alcohol abuse by students.
"This grand jury finds that Penn State administrators displayed a
shocking apathy to the potential danger associated with doing nothing,"
the report said. It urged state legislators to tighten laws against
hazing and furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors.
If a person dies in connection with those crimes, the grand jury
recommended increasing the maximum penalty to 20 years in prison from
the current top punishment of two years behind bars.
In Piazza's death, 26 fraternity members face charges including
involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, hazing and furnishing
alcoholic beverages to a minor under 21.
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Penn State has banned Beta Theta Pi. It said it disagreed with the
grand jury's findings that the university also was at fault.
"The university is prepared to be a leader, but not a scapegoat,"
Penn State attorney Duane Morris responded in a court document. "The
university pledges to continue to educate, investigate and
vigorously discipline its students to do our best to prevent another
tragic loss caused by the scourge of alcohol abuse."
Surveillance-camera video showed an initiation that included games
involving the rapid consumption of wine, beer and vodka in the frat
house's basement during a pledge party.
The footage showing the games had been deleted after the fraternity
learned police planned to seize the video from the frat house in the
town of State College, but the FBI was able to recover and restore
“No one should die because they want to join a fraternity,” said
Rich Braham, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Penn State
after his 18-year-old son Marquise committed suicide in March 2014,
following months of initiation rituals by Phi Sigma Kappa.
“The problems are institutional,” said Braham, a television news
producer. “My beautiful son went to Penn State full of life and joy
and sarcasm and just was a fun kid. He didn’t join a fraternity to
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)
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