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April 26, 2018

A.G. to appeal dismissal of charges in death of Penn State student

The Pennsylvania Attorney General will appeal a court ruling that dismissed serious charges against five former fraternity members in the high-profile death of Timothy Piazza at a Penn State fraternity in February 2017.

Last month charges of involuntary manslaughter were thrown out by Centre County Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair against five of the Beta Theta Pi brothers for the second time.

Notice of appeals also were filed today regarding three additional defendants, each hit with lesser charges like furnishing alcohol to minors and conspiracy to commit hazing.

"We laid out the required elements of the charges which were dismissed at a preliminary hearing last month," said spokesman Joe Grace said in a news release.  "In the interest of justice for the Piazza family, our office today filed a notice of appeal with respect to charges against eight of the defendants in this case."

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is expected to speak on his office’s review of this case and the appeals early next week.

The case made national headlines and incited fierce debate, as litigation has been a back and forth between district judges and now the attorney general.

In September 2017 a judge initially threw out the charges of felony aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter against eight defendants.

But just a month ago Sinclair let lesser charges like hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors stand for eight former fraternity members and in a divisive move dismissed the more serious charges and a dozen others.

His decision significantly narrowed the scope of punishment for the brothers. That chapter of Beta Theta Pi has since been banned from Penn State’s campus and the university has begun to implement stricter rules on its fraternities.