New charges in Penn State fraternity hazing death
New charges were announced today against 17 former Penn State fraternity brothers in connection with the death of fraternity pledge Tim Piazza earlier this year.
WATCH: New charges in Penn State fraternity hazing deathThe charges -- which include involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and hazing -- are the result of an investigation into deleted surveillance video from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house basement, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said at a press conference. One individual is charged for allegedly deleting the video from the fraternity house, where prosecutors say Piazza, 19, was forced to drink and ultimately suffered a fatal injury in February. Initially, 18 former Beta Theta Pi members faced charges in connection with Piazza's death, with prosecutors alleging many were involved in attempting to cover up the incident and "coordinate a story." One former fraternity member allegedly texted his girlfriend "drink hazing can send me to jail," and "I don't want to go to jail for this." "I think we are f-----," he added. "Make sure the pledges clean the basement and get rid of any evidence of alcohol," one of the fraternity members allegedly texted another after Piazza's injury.
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Ex-Penn State frat member's text: 'I don't want to go to jail for this'In September charges were dismissed completely against four of the former fraternity members who were facing single counts of either tampering with evidence or recklessly endangering another person. The most serious charges -- involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault -- were also dropped for eight former fraternity members. Cases against 14 students were set to move forward for less serious alleged offenses. Today Parks Miller said five of the individuals already facing charges will now face new charges, and she also announced charges against 12 new defendants. "When law enforcement initially evaluated the video footage, fraternity brothers led police to believe that the basement cameras had been inoperable" the night of Piazza's fall, the district attorney's office said in a press release. "However, after later examining one of the DVR surveillance boxes, State College Police uncovered evidence that the basement camera footage had actually been manually deleted just as State College Police were poised to take possession of the recording equipment." FBI agents restored the deleted video which shows hazing activity and brothers giving alcohol to the pledges, according to the district attorney's office. Piazza was given at least 18 drinks in 1 hour and 22 minutes and he "never once obtained any of those drinks for himself," Parks Miller said. That night, after taking part in an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual known as the "Gauntlet," a heavily intoxicated Piazza was heard falling down the stairs. He was later found lying face down at the bottom. What happened next is described in horrific detail in a grand jury report citing evidence including surveillance video, witness testimony and phone records. Members of the fraternity carried Piazza up the steps and put him on the couch. They dumped water on his face and slapped him in an apparent attempt to wake him, to no avail. When one pledge tried to intervene, insisting they get Piazza some help, he was shoved into a wall and told the brothers had it under control. As the night went on, Piazza tried over and over to stand on his own, falling each time and eventually going still. By the morning of Feb. 3, he was breathing heavily, with blood on his face. When a fraternity member finally called 911 for help, Piazza's skin had turned gray. He died a day later of traumatic brain injuries. The fraternity itself, which was barred from Penn State, is also facing charges. Piazza's father, Jim Piazza, said at the news conference that his son "was a happy and caring human being" who "was killed at the hands of those he was seeking friendship from." "The visions of him lying in a hospital bed battered and bruised and on life support ... make no sense," Jim Piazza said. "He was just trying to join an organization." He added, "Hazing is illegal and justice needs to be served."