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Judge Dismisses Most Serious Charges In Penn State Hazing Death

James Piazza (right) seated with wife Evelyn and son Michael speaks during an interview last year about his son Timothy, a Penn State sophomore who died after a hazing ritual.
Bebeto Matthews
James Piazza (right) seated with wife Evelyn and son Michael speaks during an interview last year about his son Timothy, a Penn State sophomore who died after a hazing ritual.

Updated at 2:52 p.m. ET

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed the most serious charges filed against 11 members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity in the hazing-related death of Timothy Piazza.

Judge Allen Sinclair dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges filed against the fraternity brothers.

But he allowed new charges of "conspiracy to commit hazing" to proceed against some of the fraternity brothers.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that he was "disappointed by the decision" and is "assessing our legal options."

"We filed these charges after a comprehensive review of the case," Shapiro said. "That review is ongoing. We will move forward with our case and the charges that were held for trial today. I am disappointed by the decision of the Magisterial District Judge and we are assessing our legal options. My office is committed to seeking justice for Timothy Piazza and his family and holding responsible individuals accountable for their actions, consistent with the law and the evidence in this case."

Through its attorney, Thomas Kline, the Piazza family also echoed its disappointment but said it was "heartened" that various other charges were either added or are continuing to be pursued:

Among the defendants is Luke Visser, who allegedly ran a beer pong table at the Beta Theta Pi house the evening Piazza was injured. In his case, conspiracy to commit hazing charges were dismissed by the judge, along with the more serious involuntary manslaughter charge.

Visser's attorney Theodore Simon thanked the judge for finding again that the most serious charges against his client should be dropped. Simon wrote in a statement to NPR, "This was a sad and tragic loss of life, but not every unfortunate tragedy should result in serious criminal charges."

The judge ruled Visser will continue to face charges related to furnishing a minor with alcohol.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues, climate change and the mid-Atlantic region. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
Andrea de Leon
Andrea de Leon is NPR's Northeast Bureau Chief and edits the network's coverage of addiction and treatment. In her long career at NPR, de Leon has shaped coverage of Donald Trump's business and legal affairs in New York, superstorm Sandy, hurricane Katrina, and 9/11. As the editor for addiction and treatment, she has focused on the rise of the opioid epidemic, settlements with the nation's opioid manufacturers and suppliers, the patchwork of treatment for addiction in the United States, and the changing supply of illegal drugs. She is the winner of numerous awards, including the Leo C. Lee Award for her contribution to public radio journalism. She is a past member of the board of PRNDI (now the Public Media Journalists Association) and The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.