Ryan Burke, a former Penn State University fraternity brother at Beta Theta Pi, has entered the first guilty plea in the death of Timothy Piazza, a pledge who was fatally injured after a night of heavy drinking and hazing on February 4, 2017.
According to the Centre Daily Times, 21-year-old Ryan Burke of Scranton, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to all nine remaining charges he faced, including four misdemeanor counts of hazing, on Wednesday, June 13. Burke, who was accused of giving Piazza a bottle of vodka at the party, will be sentenced July 31.
Burke gave Piazza a handle of vodka to drink eight minutes before State College police detective David Scicchitano observed Piazza to be visibly intoxicated on video. The drink was one of 18 Piazza consumed in a span of 82 minutes before falling down the basement steps and becoming unconscious.The 21-year-old Scranton native pleaded guilty to all nine charges — including four counts of hazing — bound over for trial by District Judge Steven Lachman in May. Lachman’s ruling dismissed four counts of furnishing liquor to minors and one count of recklessly endangering another person.
Three charges — aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter and simple assault — were withdrawn by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office prior to Burke’s preliminary hearing. Shapiro’s office accepted the case after District Attorney Bernie Cantorna cited a conflict of interest. Masorti said he did not ask for a plea agreement and none was offered by Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo.
He also played football and track when he was in high school. He was a member of the homecoming court in 2014, and also served as a Red Devil ambassador at Hunterdon Center and on the school’s Teen Prevention Education Program. He did volunteer work to help teach children with special needs how to play sports such as football, basketball, and baseball.
Piazza’s death spurred a cascade of changes in the Penn State greek life community. The school levied hard sanctions against greek life focused on hazing. These changes altered the rules for how fraternities and sororities can recruit members and host social events with alcohol. Beta Theta Pi was also permanently banned from Penn State.