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June 13, 2017

Report: Defendants laughed after video of dying Penn State teen shown in court, father says

The father of the New Jersey teen who died after a night of hazing at a Penn State fraternity said he was upset to see defendants and their families laughing and hugging following a grueling preliminary hearing on Monday.

"Most, but not all, of the fraternity brothers and their families got together, laughed, patted each other on the back and hugged as if this was just another fraternity get-together," James Piazza, father of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza, told on Tuesday. "We are highly offended by the insensitivity displayed given the severity of the crimes committed and ultimate outcome."

Three hours of video taken from surveillance footage inside the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house was shown publicly for the first time during the hearing for 16 of 18 Penn State fraternity brothers accused in Timothy Piazza's death.

Eight students face involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing charges, while four have been charged with reckless endangerment, hazing and related offenses and six face charges of evidence tampering.

Piazza, 19, of Readington Township, New Jersey, died Feb. 4 – two days after he fell down the stairs while intoxicated during a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual. Piazza suffered multiple injuries, and prosecutors say brothers at the fraternity waited nearly 12 hours before calling 911 the next morning.

"I don't see anyone acting sad," Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said of the defendants who appeared in court, according to the report.

After a nearly 10-hour session on Monday, Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair ordered a continuance to be held later this summer to allow defense attorneys to cross-examine State College Police Det. David Scicchitano, the only person who testified.

Penn State has vowed to reform its Greek life following Piazza's death. 

Earlier this month, the school announced new safety measures to avoid similar tragedies in the future and released a set of initiatives that include monitoring fraternity and sorority social events and permanently revoking any Greek chapter that uses alcohol and physical abuse for hazing.