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Judge to decide whether to try Penn State frat members in hazing death

Judge to decide whether to try Penn State frat members in hazing death
Judge to decide whether to try Penn State frat members in hazing death

By David DeKok

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (Reuters) - A judge is set to decide on Friday whether 16 Pennsylvania State University fraternity members will be tried in the alcohol-fueled hazing death of a 19-year-old prospective member.

After days of testimony stretching back to June and two days of closing arguments, Centre County Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair will rule on whether prosecutors have presented enough evidence to support a trial for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and other charges against members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Timothy Piazza died on Feb. 4, two days after he attended a party that featured a drinking game called "The Gauntlet." Piazza suffered fatal injuries after drunkenly falling several times, including twice down a flight of stairs.

Authorities say the fraternity brothers failed to summon medical help for hours, despite obvious signs that Piazza was unwell.

Eight members, including the fraternity president, Brandon Young, face felony charges that could result in many years in prison. The other defendants are charged with misdemeanors.

It is relatively rare for a magisterial judge to decline to bind over a prosecutor's case for trial.

On Thursday, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller told the judge that the fraternity members acted like "out-of-control savages."

Defense lawyers have argued that their clients could not have reasonably expected that the drinking typically associated with a fraternity party would lead to someone's death.

A security camera captured much of the hazing, and the harrowing video has been played back in court during the hearing.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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