Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna requested that the state Office of Attorney General take over the case involving the death of Timothy Piazza at a Penn State fraternity in February 2017.
The request was based on what former defense attorney Cantorna called a conflict of interest regarding the case, though what that conflict is has not been made public.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro reviewed the basis for the conflict and accepted the case, which will now be subject of an independent review, according to a Monday release from his office.
Cantorna said in November he would not be the prosecutor in the case against former Beta Theta Pi fraternity members and the fraternity itself. Piazza consumed 18 alcoholic drinks in one hour and 22 minutes as part of a pledge hazing ceremony, according to court documents. The excessive alcohol consumption resulted in Piazza falling down the stairs twice and suffering fatal injuries.
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The fraternity has since been banned by Penn State, and 26 former fraternity members face charges, the most severe of which are involuntary manslaughter.
Cantorna sought the advice of the state Bar Ethics Committee prior to taking office and was advised to ask Shapiro to take over the cases.
“I ran for office on a promise that I would work to restore integrity to our legal system,” he said. “Doing so means I must follow the ethics rules imposed on me and ensure that cases are not delayed.”
Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Cantorna was “offloading” cases, though the Piazza family supports the decision.
Attorney Thomas Kline, who represents the Piazza family, said they are confident the AG’s office, “will bring all those responsible for Tim’s death to justice.”