Any potential trial regarding a Beta Theta Pi pledge who died during a fraternity event in 2017 has been pushed back until later this year.
Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State student, died nearly a year ago after a reported fall during a bid acceptance night event in February. A lengthy police investigation followed the death, including hours of surveillance camera footage from inside the fraternity house that night and an investigation by a Centre County grand jury.
Eight days of testimony followed in a preliminary hearing that was spread over four months, the end of which saw the most serious charges against several of the members and the fraternity dismissed.
The county district attorney’s office, under former DA Stacy Parks Miller, was quick to refile charges, also filing motions to have District Judge Allen Sinclair — who presided over the hearing — replaced and seeking to have District Judge Steven Lachman recused from the case.
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In an order dated Wednesday, President Judge Pamela Ruest granted a prosecution motion to have the trial postponed until the April term.
Several motions have been filed by the various attorneys representing the accused Beta members seeking to have the refiled charges dismissed, citing violations of due process. An order has not yet been issued on these motions.
Ruest’s postponement follows a Jan. 11 order denying the dismissal of Sinclair as the hearing judge, noting that he heard extensive testimony over several days and “made a well-reasoned decision.” The order continues, saying the commonwealth failed to prove Sinclair committed an error of law in finding that a prima facie case had not been established.
“As such, Judge Sinclair will continue to preside over these refiled charges,” the order states.
A second order, also dated Jan. 11, denied the prosecution’s additional motion to recuse Lachman from the case.
Prosecution of the Beta Theta Pi case has since been turned over to the state attorney general, as newly seated D A Bernie Cantorna cited a conflict of interest in prosecuting the case. Cantorna has not yet indicated what the conflict is. The AG has accepted the case.