The Pennsylvania Attorney General dropped the three most serious charges against former Beta Theta Pi brothers charged in connection with 19-year-old pledge Timothy Piazza's death in February 2017.
Twelve former brothers are scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing Wednesday and five of the 12 had three of the most serious charges — felony aggravated assault, first-degree misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and second-degree misdemeanor simple assault — dropped.
It was the second time Attorney General Josh Shapiro dropped the most serious charges against the brothers after accepting the case from Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna, who cited a conflict of interest.
Shapiro also detailed his office's new legal theory on Tuesday after a four-month comprehensive review.
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He said former Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller proceeded with a theory that primarily focused on alcohol, but his office will proceed with a theory focused on three key pillars.
The first focuses on the defendants who planned or participated in the gauntlet or other alcohol-related hazing activities. The second focuses on the defendants who were aware Piazza suffered a fall. The third focuses on the defendants who failed to render aid or seek medical attention.
Shapiro and his office are attempting to reinstate the involuntary manslaughter charges against five brothers who they say were aware before, during and after Piazza's fall.
Parks Miller charged 13 brothers with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Shapiro's office charged five brothers with involuntary manslaughter and none with aggravated assault.
District Judge Allen Sinclair dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charges against the five brothers on March 28. Shapiro's office filed an appeal on Thursday and is seeking to reinstate the involuntary manslaughter charges against Brendan Young, Daniel Casey, Jonah Neuman, Gary Dibileo and Luke Visser.
The appeal will go to Centre County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Pamela Ruest. It will be the second time she hears an appeal on Sinclair's ruling. She previously ruled Sinclair, "made a well-reasoned decision."
If Ruest denies Shapiro's appeal, he said his office could file an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
Wednesday's hearing is scheduled to proceed because the 12 brothers are not among the five who will be impacted by Shapiro's appeal.
Aside from the former Beta Theta Pi brothers charged, Tim Bream — former fraternity adviser and Penn State assistant athletic director/head football trainer — has been questioned by defense attorneys for his involvement. Bream was inside the house the night of Piazza's fall.
State College police detective David Scicchitano testified on March 27 and said Bream procured a bartender to come onto the fraternity premises to server alcohol to the fraternity members. Scicchitano also said Bream told him he was unaware of alcohol use on the premises.
When asked if he believed Bream lied under oath about alcohol use at the fraternity, Scicchitano said, "I believe he did."
Shapiro declined to comment on Bream's involvement and possibility of criminal charges.
Shapiro said the convoluted legal process could take a substantial amount of time to sort out, but he said passing Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's anti-hazing legislation would be a meaningful step legislators could take in the meantime. The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed the bill on April 18.