Penn State President Eric Barron called the series of events that led to the death "sickening and hard to understand".
Ten of the 18 brothers belonging to Beta Theta Pi were arraigned Friday afternoon following a months-long investigation into the death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, New Jersey. Barron said it is "numbing" that a unsafe atmosphere could occur at a fraternity that prided itself on commitment to each other and the community.
During the course of its own student conduct investigation, Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi from the university and implemented a number of significant new restrictions on alcohol use and new member recruitment.
They then ran "the gauntlet", which a pledge described as going from station to station and drinking alcohol at different stops.
The Dauphin County Coroner had previously determined Piazza sustained multiple traumatic injuries from the fall and deemed his death accidental. At the highest point of his drunkenness, medical examiners would later estimate, his blood alcohol level was nearly 0.40 - almost five times the legal definition of intoxication. Tim's spirit will live on forever at Penn State.
A few additional defendants also had preliminary arraignments Friday afternoon with the same conditions, except $50,000 ROR, the district attorney said.
Beta Theta Pi's worldwide fraternity in a statement called the charges "incredibly disheartening", and said it stood by its decision to suspend and disband the local chapter.
With Piazza still on the couch and an ambulance on its way, chapter president Brendan Young and vice president Daniel Casey, both of whom now face charges of involuntary manslaughter, arrived to survey the scene.
Officials at the Centre Country District Attorney's Office found that "the Penn State Greek nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life", according to a press release sent out by the organization today. The grand jury said their actions in some cases may have worsened his injuries.
The State College-based school shut down the Beta chapter permanently following the February 2 pledge event that led to Piazza's death. A member of the frat called 911 at around 10.48am, but Piazza later died in hospital.
The district attorney said today that Piazza had two serious falls during the night and by the time he went to the hospital on February 3 it was essentially too late, according to The Patriot-News. Flanked by Piazza's parents and a blown-up portrait of the sophomore engineering major, Parks Miller accused fraternity members of putting Piazza through a unsafe booze-fueled hazing ritual and failing to call for help once he had injured himself.
Other fraternity brothers discovered Piazza in the basement at about 10 a.m. The university also instituted new rules for the rest of its 83 fraternities and sororities.
Penn State students play frisbee in front of Old Main on campus on November 11, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. They also reportedly attempted to cover up their role in Piazza's death by deleting their online exchanges.
It said the investigation showed that the behavior of some of the members "was in direct contradiction of the International Fraternity's expectations and risk management policies, as well as the International Fraternity's reputation and commitment to character development".
The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer and an hour later needing help to walk from an area near the basement stairs to a couch.
Michael Angelo Schiavone, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon, Parker Jax Yochim will be charged with reckless endangerment charges and more.