Eighteen members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Pennsylvania State University have been criminally charged for failing to help a pledge who died in February after consuming toxic levels of alcohol during an initiation ceremony and suffering a series of falls.

ABC News reported that eight of the fraternity members and the chapter itself were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Others were charged with aggravated and simple assault, evidence tampering, alcohol-related violations, and hazing.

Timothy Piazza, 19, had a blood-alcohol content of nearly 0.40 on the night of the pledge ceremony. He fell several times, injuring his head. Camera footage showed Mr. Piazza drinking vodka and beer, needing help to walk, and staggering and struggling to open the front door. When he was found at the bottom of the basement steps, fraternity members carried him upstairs, where some poured liquid on him and one slapped him. When a fraternity member suggested medical help was needed, he was shoved into a wall and later told that others, who were biology and kinesiology majors, had more valuable opinions.

Mr. Piazza was found in the basement the next morning “lying on his back with his arms clenched tight at his sides and his hands in the air,” jurors wrote. “His chest was bare, his breathing heavy, and he had blood on his face.”

Someone finally called 911 after 40 minutes of trying to shake him, prop him up, clean his face, and dress him.


The university’s president, Eric J. Barron, permanently banned Beta Theta Pi in March. In a written statement on Friday, he again condemned the excessive drinking at the fraternity.

“The alleged details in the grand-jury presentment, which suggest the inhumane treatment of a student forced through hazing to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol and endure hours of suffering, are sickening and difficult to understand,” Mr. Barron said in the statement.