Ryan Burke, the first member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State, to plead guilty in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza, will be sentenced on Tuesday, July 31.
Burke, 21, pleaded guilty last month to four counts of hazing and five counts related to unlawful acts involving liquor. The Scranton resident is just one of more than 20 members of the now-closed fraternity to face criminal charges over the February 2017 death of Timothy Piazza
Piazza passed away on February 4, 2017, after suffering a fractured skull and severe abdominal injuries from a fall during pledge night activities at the Beta Theta Pi house at Penn State. During the night, Piazza’s blood-alcohol level went “from a zero to as high as a .36”
Last November, Burke was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment, however, the attorney general’s office dropped the most serious charges in April.
Court documents say Burke was an active participant in the bid acceptance night events at the fraternity, including providing alcohol to Piazza and others who had just signed up as pledges. Burke was the rush chairman and in charge of recruiting new members. A prosecution sentencing memo filed last week said Burke lined up the pledges single-file and marched them into the basement, “where the alcohol-fueled hazing would ensue.”
The memo says Burke walked around the basement with a bottle of vodka for the pledges in one hand, supplying Piazza and three others with vodka over a 10-minute period. The hazing counts and four of the five alcohol violations relate to those events. Burke also pleaded guilty to underage drinking.
After Piazza fell down the basement stairs and had to be carried to a first-floor sofa, Burke “appeared unconcerned,” prosecutors wrote.
“He is seen playfully hoisting a girl over his shoulders, jumping on the sofa next to Piazza, and then rolling over and on top of Piazza as he is getting up before leaving the room. He leaves Piazza to be dealt with by others,” according to the sentencing memo.
Piazza’s death spurred a cascade of changes in the Penn State Greek life community and across the country. 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.