Prosecutors on Monday played in court new footage recovered from the basement of a Penn State fraternity house, where police say an alleged hazing victim was plied with 18 drinks in 82 minutes before his fatal fall down steep basement stairs.
The new footage — about two hours’ worth of video clips — was played Monday during the preliminary hearing for 11 former members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity who face criminal charges ranging from alcohol violations to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza,PennLive.com reports.
Piazza died in February 2017, one day after falling down a set of basement stairs at the frat house. The newly obtained footage — which prosecutors said had been deleted by a fraternity member but was restored by the FBI — showed that Piazza didn’t get any of his own drinks after accepting a bid to join the frat following an alcohol-chugging contest.
State College police Detective David Scicchitano testified that Piazza never grabbed his own drink when he went to the basement during the party. Piazza was instead plied with booze by frat brothers who were serving beer, vodka and wine to him and other pledges. The free-flowing booze continued for Piazza well after he was staggering and visibly intoxicated, Scicchitano said.
Piazza’s parents left the courtroom before the new footage was shown, WNEP reports. The video showed Piazza and other pledges being forced to drink while “lined up in a row like prisoners,” Tom Kline, an attorney for Piazza’s family, told the station.
The excessive drinking started after a ceremony during which Piazza and 13 other pledges agreed to join the fraternity. Pledges were taken into a darkened room in the basement of the home, where they sat on a bench and took chugs from a vodka bottle, the video showed. Scicchitano said the bottle was passed among the pledges three times as the house pledge master stood nearby.
As the pledges drank downstairs, the frat brothers had been arranging a drinking obstacle course upstairs called the “gauntlet.” The pledges went upstairs and completed the challenge before returning downstairs to cap it all off with a beer pong match before being handed beers to “shotgun” quickly.
Piazza was moving “purposefully” before falling, but was immediately unresponsive afterward, Schicchitano testified. The new footage did not show Piazza’s head-first fall, but did record several frat brothers pointing at his head after the accident — and taking no steps to get medical help — before the pledge eventually was carried to a couch upstairs.Police said Piazza was served 18 drinks in the span of 82 minutes. He was knocked unconscious from a fall downstairs just minutes after his final drink, PennLive.com reports.
“We saw them today literally having discussions over his limp body,” Kline said. “They knew, understood, recognized that he was hurt when he fell down those stairs.”
Attorneys for the defendants, meanwhile, questioned whether some of the beverages the partiers were drinking actually contained alcohol.