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Parents Slam ‘Hollow Excuses’ From Fraternity Members in Penn State Hazing Death

3 minute read

“I don’t want to go to jail for this,” the pledge master of a Penn State fraternity wrote in a text message after Tim Piazza was fatally injured in a February hazing ritual, according to evidence presented by prosecutors at a preliminary hearing this week over the sophomore’s death. On Tuesday, Piazza’s father identified that text and others as evidence that fraternity members took actions “they all knew were wrong and illegal.”

The preliminary hearing, which is set to continue in August, will determine whether there’s enough evidence to send the case to trial.

“Text messages by and among the Fraternity leadership presented in court admitted the obvious when they privately confided to each other and others that they ‘could go to jail’ for what they did,” James Piazza said in a statement Tuesday night. “Yet their lawyers and other lawyers tried for two days to make it appear that our son’s death was merely an accident.”

Tim Piazza died in February after a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual in which he consumed a “life-threatening” amount of alcohol and sustained injuries from a fall down stairs. The fraternity has been permanently banned at Penn State, and 18 fraternity members are now facing charges ranging from hazing to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

In hearings on Monday and Tuesday, defense attorneys argued that 19-year-old Tim Piazza had been drinking voluntarily and questioned why their clients deserved to be charged, while prosecutors focused on concerned text messages exchanged by fraternity members.

“I think we’re f—ed,” the fraternity’s pledge master said in a text, according to ABC News.

“It’s not the fact that he drank. He drank because we hazed him too. Main word being hazed,” one fraternity member texted another, according to testimony by State College Police Detective Dave Scicchitano, the Associated Press reported.

“Make sure the pledges keep quiet about last night and this situation,” another said, ABC News reported.

James Piazza said he was disappointed by a “grueling” hearing that will now stretch into August.

“As we have now sat for three days uncomfortably and impatiently listening to the defense lawyers’ hollow excuses and arguments, our thoughts have turned constantly to our son Tim, whose death was caused collectively by men who continue, through their lawyers, to show no remorse, perpetuating the misconduct which caused Tim’s death,” he said in his statement.

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com