Penn State

Can Beta Theta Pi collect on food, liquor, lodging? A judge may intervene.

The former Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity house is reportedly being used by fraternity alumni during home football games.
The former Penn State Beta Theta Pi fraternity house is reportedly being used by fraternity alumni during home football games. Centre Daily Times, file

A judge wants to hear why she should shut down football weekend events at a shuttered fraternity.

On Tuesday, Centre County Judge Katherine Oliver ordered a hearing on a motion for special injunction and preliminary injunction in the case of the former Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at 220 N. Burrowes St. in State College.

The order comes in response to a request from Donald Abbey, the Penn State alumnus who says the fraternity owes him $8.5 million.

Abbey’s attorneys filed the motion Oct. 5, asking the court to stop the fraternity’s housing corporation from renting out the house and providing food and alcohol without a license. In September, the Associated Press reported the facility was being offered “on a limited basis with exclusive use” to alumni for home football games.

That made waves since the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi was suspended in February by both Penn State and its national organization and subsequently banned from the university in March. That action came after the Feb. 4 death of Timothy Piazza, 19, a Penn State sophomore and Beta pledge who police and prosecutors say sustained fatal injuries in a Feb. 2 fall at the fraternity.

Abbey, who says he provided money to the fraternity for repairs, upgrades and a house fund, has claimed that his money came with strings: break the rules, stop functioning as a Beta Theta Pi fraternity and the money all had to be repaid. His suit says that is what happened. The fraternity housing corporation says the contract wasn’t binding and questions the total.

The money for the rentals was designated in emails to go to the fraternity’s defense fund, according to the AP.

Abbey’s attorneys say opening the house up to the gatherings opens the fraternity up to liability, and the house is the only asset that could go to paying fines for operating without permission from state and local authorities.

Oliver set a hearing for Oct. 27.

Penn State’s next home game is on Oct. 21.

District attorney Stacy Parks Miller talked about appealing some of the charges after the Beta Theta Pi ruling, including manslaughter. Piazza family attorney Tom Kline said Evelyn and Jim Piazza were “fine," but thought the defense counsel were i

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce