Just how much did Timothy Piazza drink the night he sustained fatal brain and spleen injuries?
Attorneys for Beta Theta Pi fraternity members charged in connection with the pledge party where Piazza fell in February focused on that aspect of the case during part of Tuesday’s continued preliminary hearing.
As cross-examination continued, Beta pledgemaster Daniel Casey’s lawyer Steve Trialonas and other attorneys wanted to see the amount of vodka left in the bottle at the first station of the gauntlet.
State College police Detective David Scicchitano could not testify to the exact amount consumed during the course of the obstacle course, but Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller argued that the exact amount was moot, citing that the charges covered the entire night as a whole.
Under redirect, Scicchitano broke down the perceived difference between voluntary drinking and forced drinking, saying the pledges were “pushed” from station to station. He also testified that the course was a “rite of passage” for the pledges, saying they felt they would not be accepted if they didn’t drink.
Attorney Daniel McGee, representing Jonah Neuman, also briefly cross-examined Scicchitano before the court broke for lunch. McGee’s questions focused on the aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges his client faces, saying Neuman played no part in planning the even or procuring the alcohol.
Scicchitano testified that while Neuman is not an officer or part of the social committee for the fraternity, he is seen on video giving beers to three pledges and denied supplying beer to the pledges when interviewed.
Eighteen fraternity members are charged in the case, in addition to the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi itself. The charges vary across the defendants from involuntary manslaughter to hazing to tampering with evidence, but 12 of the members face some charge for furnishing alcohol.
Cross-examinations continued as attorney Andrew Shubin, representing Nicholas Kubera, questioned Scicchitano about his client’s role running the “beer shotgun” station of the obstacle course. Kubera’s charges, according to Scicchitano, resulted in his role of reportedly handing out beer at the station, during which he allegedly handed beer to 14 pledges.
Shubin argued that he client was a newly initiated brother, and as such had no role in the planning of the event. There was no evidence, he said, that Kubera saw or knew of the fall that reportedly happened during the social event.
Attorney Rocco Cipparone, representing Michael Bonatucci, pursued a line of questioning establishing his client’s actions during the evening in question, saying that as all were charged as accomplices, it was important to separate what his client did and did not do.
Citing information passed to him by Alpha Upsilon chapter attorney Michael Leahey, whom Cipparone said is the only attorney outside of the prosecution to see the surveillance video, Bonatucci reportedly left the Beta house several minutes before Piazza’s first reported fall. Over a series of pointed questions, Scicchitano testified that he had no evidence Bonatucci saw or knew Piazza had fallen, had been a part of text messages before or after the event or had been a part of procuring the alcohol for the event.
Parks Miller argued that Bonatucci directly contributed to the event by reportedly helping to set up the beer shotgun station and had passed beers to four underage pledges.