District Attorney: Penn State Frat Probe Will Reveal ‘Who Knew What and When'

Eight more members of Beta Theta Pi made their first court appearance Tuesday

The district attorney investigating the death of a pledge after an alcohol-fueled hazing ritual at Penn State University said the grand jury’s probe will "open eyes a lot of eyes" about "who knew what and when."

"This behavior, particularly with this fraternity, had gone on for quite a period of time," Center County District Attorney Stacy Parks told "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer, noting cell phone records appeared to show fraternal hazing had been ongoing for at least several semesters. "I think it's going to be surprising to people who knew what, when."

Miller's comments Wednesday come a day after eight more members of Beta Theta Pi made their first court appearance Tuesday. The students were released on bail to await trial on charges stemming from the deaadly hazing incident.

A Pennsylvania judge arraigned the defendants -- including two from the Philadelphia region -- and set bail at $50,000, but they did not have to post any money.

The members of Beta Theta Pi face a range of charges. Ten other fraternity members -- including two more men from the Philadelphia region -- who face more serious charges were arraigned Friday.

Five of the defendants in court Tuesday are accused of evidence tampering. Two are accused of hazing, alcohol law violations and reckless endangerment.

The lawyer for Joseph Ems Jr., 20, who faces only a reckless endangerment charge, called it a tragic and sad case and expressed condolences the family of victim Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old engineering student from Lebanon, New Jersey.

"It's important to remember as tragic as this case is, my client's a wonderful young man that's never been in trouble," said Ems' attorney, William Brennan. "I think as the facts shake out, my client hopefully will be in a position to be extricated from this troubling case."

Timothy Piazza PSU Frat Death
Family Photo
Timothy Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey

Piazza died less than two days after falling and hitting his head several times after a pledge acceptance ceremony at the fraternity house in February.

A grand jury said security camera footage captured events inside the house that night, including pledges being ordered to guzzle alcohol quickly after the ceremony. Piazza appeared to become inebriated and fell face-first down a flight of basement steps before midnight.

The footage shows that Piazza fell repeatedly as the evening progressed, the jury wrote. Fraternity brothers made halfhearted and even counterproductive efforts to help him, and when one member strongly advocated for summoning help, he was shoved into a wall and told to leave, the report said.

Piazza apparently fell down the steps again early the next morning but was not discovered until about 10 a.m. Someone called 911 some 40 minutes later. Piazza later died as a result of severe head injuries and suffered other injuries that included internal bleeding from a shattered spleen.

Findings by WACH on Scribd

The university on March 30 issued a permanent ban on Beta Theta Pi, which was once regarded as a model fraternity. The school found what it called a "persistent pattern" of excessive drinking, drug use and hazing. The fraternity also has been charged in Piazza's death.

In an interview on the "Today" show Wednesday, Penn State University President Eric Barron called fraternal hazing a "national problem" and said the school will continue to do everything it can, including "shutting down every house that's out there," until they solve the problem.

Asked if Penn State thought they did enough to govern Beta Theta Pi and other fraternities, Barron notes limitations to managing organizations that operate in secret and in privately owned property.

"These brothers signed a pledge that if they were caught drinking they would be expelled, they had faculty advisers, they had cameras, they had no eternal parties," Baroon told "Today" co-host Savannah Gutherie. "But if behind closed doors, a group of people are willing to band together, keep something secret and not tell anyone, how is that universities can manage a situation like that?"

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