BELLEFONTE, Pa. (Reuters) - A prosecutor brought fresh charges against 12 members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity on Monday in the death of a 19-year-old student after examining recovered surveillance-camera video of an alcohol-fueled initiation rite that turned deadly.
Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 4 after a drinking game at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house in the town of State College as part of a hazing ritual, in which would-be members face degrading challenges.
A total of 17 fraternity members are now facing various charges, including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, hazing and furnishing alcoholic beverages to a minor under the age of 21.
Two of the people charged on Monday had previously faced criminal complaints that had been dismissed.
Announcing the new charges, Stacy Parks Miller, Centre County’s district attorney, said the recovered footage, which had been deleted after the fraternity learned police were planning to seize the video, clearly showed criminal conduct.
The video captured games involving the rapid consumption of wine, beer and vodka in the fraternity house’s basement during a party for newly accepted members and showed Piazza being given at least 18 drinks over a period of 1 hour and 22 minutes, Parks Miller said.
“He never once obtained those drinks for himself, brothers came up and gave them to him,” she said at a news conference at the courthouse in Bellefonte, referring to fraternity members.
Piazza, a student from Lebanon, New Jersey, seriously injured himself after becoming intoxicated at the party, taking two tumbles down flights of stairs. He died two days later.
Braxton Becker, one of the fraternity members, deleted the video footage while State College police were in the room to seize the recording equipment, and faces separate charges of evidence tampering and obstruction of justice, Parks Miller said. His lawyer, Karen Gwyn Muir, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The deleted video was recovered with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Parks Miller’s office said.
Additional reporting and writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Wallis and James Dalgleish