Stacy Parks Miller introduces new charges following recovery of deleted Beta Theta Pi basement footage
New charges have been filed Monday in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza, who was a Beta Theta Pi pledge in February 2017.
Piazza, new evidence revealed, consumed 18 alcoholic drinks in one hour and 22 minutes.
Recovered video, which had allegedly been deleted by Piazza’s peers, led to charges against 10 new people.
Ryan Liam Burke, 21, Aidan O’Brien, 20, Jonathan Kanzler, 19, Joshua Kurczewski, 19, and Bo Han Song, 19 — all of whom were underage at the time — face felony charges in connection with the case. Each man was charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter for their alleged roles in the events that led to Piazza’s death on Feb. 4. Charges filed against them also include misdemeanor simple assault, misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person, misdemeanor hazing and misdemeanor furnishing liquor to a minor.
Joseph Ems, Brian Gelb, Patrick Jackson, Reggie Goeke, Donald Prior and Mike Fernandez were charged with misdemeanor hazing and misdemeanor furnishing alcohol to minors. A reckless endangerment charge against Ems had previously been dismissed.
Braxton Becker, who also had a previous charge dismissed, was charged with misdemeanor tampering with evidence, misdemeanor obstructing administration of law and misdemeanor hindering apprehension. In investigating the case, State College police also filed unrelated drug charges against Becker in February.
Previously charged Beta brothers Luke Visser, Gary Dibilio, Nick Kubera, Michael Bonatucci and Parker Yochim now face new criminal charges of furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.
Piazza allegedly fell down basement stairs at about 11 p.m. Feb. 2 at Beta Theta Pi’s fraternity house on Penn State’s campus, according to court documents. Piazza, a sophomore who was pledging the fraternity, was unconscious and unresponsive the next morning when first responders were notified by a caller about Piazza’s condition.
Police responded to the call at the fraternity house at 10:49 a.m. Feb. 3. Piazza was then taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center and later flown to Hershey Medical Center, where he died.
State College police Detective David Scicchitano testified in August that it appeared surveillance footage had been deleted from the equipment recovered from the Beta Theta house by police.
According to the affidavits of probable cause against Burke, O’Brien, Kanzler, Kurczewski and Song, when Scicchitano viewed on July 27 the video surveillance recovered from two DVR boxes at the house, he realized he was looking at camera angles in the basement. He had reportedly been led to believe that those cameras were not operational.
Footage showed a date of Feb. 6, police said, with no other dates found. A data record reportedly indicated all data had been cleared from the box at about 10:09 a.m. Feb. 6.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller indicated in a news conference Monday that officers had been in the house at the time the video was reportedly deleted.
Scicchitano suspected that the video had been deleted and confirmed with the manufacturer that the data message indicated the footage had been manually deleted, police said. The DVR boxes were turned over to the FBI on Aug. 9 in order to have this footage retrieved.
The FBI notified Scicchitano on Oct. 26 that the video was recovered from box two, police said. The footage was reportedly viewed on Oct. 27 and determined that three cameras in the basement contained video evidence.
According to the video, police said, the pledges, including Piazza, are seen walking into the home bar room with fraternity members Ems, Yochim, Burke, Lars Kenyon, Visser, Lucas Rockwell and another brother. The pledges were then reportedly given vodka to drink and pass down the line, which was allegedly done three times.
The pledges then continued upstairs to participate in the alcohol gauntlet previously discussed, police said.
When Piazza returned to the basement, he’s observed drinking during the social time, police said, as “numerous” fraternity members provide the pledges, including Piazza, additional alcohol to drink. The affidavit notes that a total of 18 drinks are given to Piazza by various brothers over the course of an hour and 22 minutes.
He was described in the affidavit as “visibly intoxicated” and staggering during his time in the basement. The footage reportedly lasted about two hours.
The next time he’s seen on the basement footage, police said, is in the morning hours when he comes into the bar room with no shoes or shirt on. He reportedly obtains a coat during this time and eventually disappears behind the bar.
He’s discovered about an hour and 40 minutes later when he’s brought up to the main floor, police said. At this point, he’s described as stiff and unconscious.
The affidavit also describes interactions with Becker, who was the house manager at the time of the incident. According to Becker, police said, he and house adviser Tim Bream were the only two in the house who had access to the video equipment, and only he was the one who knew how to operate the machines.
At the time of their interaction, Becker told officers the cameras in the basement were not working, police said, and the individuals who installed them were in the process of fixing them.
Text messages recovered during the investigation between Becker and another fraternity brother reportedly indicated his intent to say the cameras weren’t turned on at the time and his desire to “talk to Brendan,” police said.
Brendan Young was the fraternity president at the time of the incident.
Further text messages by Becker stated that “he was technically hazed into drinking that much,” police said. The day before the video was reportedly deleted, Becker allegedly texted saying “Brendan wants to see something on the cameras.”