Closing arguments in the Beta Theta Pi preliminary hearings continued Thursday as attorneys continued to make the case for the dismissal of charges against their respective clients.
Eighteen Beta members, as well as the Alpha Upsilon chapter of the fraternity, are facing criminal charges in connection with the death of pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, in early February.
Michael Engle, attorney for Beta brother Gary Dibileo, continued the argument against the commonwealth’s attempt to lump all the brothers charged as accomplices by pointing out that, as a matter of law, an individual can’t be an accomplice without a principle actor. The state, he argued, has yet to identify who was the main culprit in the case.
He went on to counter claims by District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller that the goal of the alcohol obstacle course was to create a “fatal level of alcohol,” calling the suggestion absurd. He went on to request the dismissal of 17 of the most serious charges against this client, including the involuntary manslaughter charge and related assault charges.
Theodore Simon, in a lengthy argument for his client Luke Visser, stated that the commonwealth had failed to provide any evidence that Piazza took part in the beer pong station in the basement his client had reportedly been running.
“That alone,” he said, “is enough to end the case.”
He continued by saying it’s critical to know that drinking was not a prerequisite for becoming a member of the fraternity, as previous arguments have shown that other brothers who did not participate in the alcohol gauntlet were later accepted. He also tried to separate the significance of the obstacle course from the social event that followed, claiming they were two separate events and should not be weighed as a single drinking event.
“There’s more factual evidence that this was an accident than the result of criminal conduct,” Simon said.
Attorney Evan Kelley was allowed to provide arguments next, as District Judge Allen Sinclair noted that Kelly’s wife was about to give birth and was on a tight schedule.
Kelly made a brief argument that while there was evidence that Craig Heimer was involved in the purchase of alcohol for the event, there was little evidence that his client knew who would be drinking it, if they would be underage and that it would be used in an obstacle course.
Court broke for lunch shortly before noon. Eight attorneys remain to make closing arguments.