BELLEFONTE, Pa. (CBS/AP) — A judge presiding over a preliminary hearing for defendants accused in the death of a Penn State fraternity pledge will be getting more evidence before he’ll decide if there’s sufficient grounds to send the case to county court for trial.
Sixteen former members of a Penn State fraternity were back in court Monday. They face various charges in connection with the death of a pledge during an alleged hazing ritual back in February.
They’re all facing charges relating to the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a pledge who died in February.
Monday was the second day of the preliminary hearing. The first was in June. A Centre County judge will decide if the evidence presented is enough for a trial.
Authorities say Piazza attended a pledge party fueled by alcohol. Detectives say Piazza fell down the stairs and no one called help for 12 hours.
In court, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller shared text messages between Beta members in the moments after Piazza died.
One of the messages from the phone of chapter president Brendan Young read, “Make sure the pledges clean the basement and get rid of any evidence of alcohol.”
Piazza’s parents were also in the courtroom, visibly upset during testimony.
The entire episode involving Piazza and fraternity brothers was caught on closed circuit surveillance video.
At one point in the video, Joseph Ems, a defendant from Philadelphia, allegedly slaps Piazza to try and wake him up. He’s charged with reckless endangerment.
“I guess I’ll look at it again today, but there was nothing on the video that I saw that was assault of a criminal behavior,” said Ems’ defense attorney Bill Brennan. “This is a terrible tragedy. The Ems family feels absolutely compassionate and deeply sorry about the loss of this young man, but we can’t equate tragedy with criminality.”
Some of the members of the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi fraternity are accused of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, while others face less serious allegations. Two previously waived the preliminary hearing.
CBS3’s David Spunt contributed to this report.
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