FILE--This file photo from Nov. 9, 2017 shows the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on the Penn State University main campus in State College, Pa. On Feb. 4, 2017, 19-year-old fraternity pledge Tim Piazza drank heavily at a pledge party, then fell head-first down basement stairs, the first of several tumbles that left him mortally injured. A preliminary hearing set to begin on Friday, March 23, 2018, at the courthouse near campus involves 11 of the 26 young men charged in connection with the February 2017 death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, FILE)

Penn State fraternity members due in court over hazing death

March 23, 2018 - 12:15 am

Some members of a now-closed Penn State fraternity facing charges over the death of a pledge last year are due back in court on Friday.

A preliminary hearing at the courthouse near campus will involve 11 of the 26 young men charged in connection with the February 2017 death of Tim Piazza after a night of hazing and drinking.

They are being prosecuted by the state attorney general's office, which took over the case after a newly-elected county district attorney was sworn in earlier this year.

State prosecutors opted to drop all of the aggravated assault charges, which had been the most serious allegations.

Five of the 11 defendants are still charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Other allegations include hazing, reckless endangerment, conspiracy and alcohol violations.

Piazza, 19, a sophomore engineering student from Lebanon, New Jersey, was at the fraternity house for a pledge bid acceptance ceremony when he apparently fell down a set of basement steps and injured himself.

He had to be carried upstairs and spent much of the night on a couch. He was recorded on the house's elaborate security camera system showing signs of pain and discomfort.

Members of the fraternity took half-hearted and even counterproductive steps to address his condition, ultimately leaving him alone in the dimly lit first-floor room.

In the early morning hours, Piazza somehow ended up back in the basement, where fraternity members found him unconscious. They carried him upstairs and then waited 40 minutes to summon help.

Authorities said Piazza consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered a fractured skull and shattered spleen. He later died at a hospital.

The attorney general's office has said its review of the case is ongoing and has not indicated its plans for other defendants with pending charges.

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