On Wednesday, for the second time, a district judge dismissed the most serious charges filed against former Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers charged in connection with 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza's February 2017 death.
The 11 defendants in the preliminary hearing had some charges bound over for trial, in addition to the charges that had already been set for trial from their first preliminary hearing.
But they're only 11 of the 26 former fraternity brothers charged in connection to Piazza's death. Twelve more former brothers are due in court for a new preliminary hearing scheduled to begin May 2 at the Centre County Courthouse. It's slated for eight consecutive days, if necessary. The hearing had originally been scheduled for Dec. 13 but was subsequently continued.
Those up for the May hearing are Braxton R. Becker, Ryan Liam Burke, Joseph Gerard Ems Jr., Michael Fernandez, Brian Gelb, Reginald R. Goeke, Patrick E. Jackson, Jonathan P. Kanzler, Joshua Robert Kurczewski, Aidan M. O'Brien, Donald Prior and Bo Han Song.
The charges in this upcoming hearing stem from November, when previously deleted video footage was recovered by the FBI. The recovered video revealed that Piazza consumed 18 alcoholic drinks in 82 minutes at a bid acceptance event on Feb. 2 before falling multiple times and sustaining fatal injuries at the Beta fraternity house on Penn State's campus.
Burke, O'Brien, Kanzler, Kurczewski and Song were charged with felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, hazing and furnishing liquor to a minor.
Ems, Gelb, Jackson, Goeke, Prior and Fernandez were charged with hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors. Becker, who had a previous charge dismissed, was charged with tampering with evidence, obstructing administration of law and hindering apprehension.
Previously charged Beta brothers Luke Visser, Gary Dibileo, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci and Parker Jax Yochim were charged with furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor based on the recovered video. They faced those charges as part of this week's preliminary hearing, with some counts being bound over for trial.
Then-Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller filed those charges, but the case has since been taken over by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office at the request of current DA Bernie Cantorna, who cited an undisclosed conflict of interest.
It's not clear at this time if the state prosecutor will proceed with all of those charges. Before this week's hearing, the state dropped all refiled aggravated and simple assault charges against eight of the brothers and involuntary manslaughter charges against three of them.
"Our review remains ongoing with regard to the other defendants and status of charge," Joe Grace, spokesman for the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro, said March 22 in an email.
Three more defendants, Edward J. Gilmartin, Ryan K. Foster and Craig A. Heimer, have had charges bound over for trial.
The state's cases against Bonatucci, Daniel Casey, Dibileo, Foster, Gilmartin, Heimer, Lars Kenyon, Kubera, Jonah Neuman, Joseph Sala, Michael Angelo Schiavone, Visser, Yochim and Brendan Young are scheduled for trial in the June term of court.