Grand jury: Penn State showed 'shocking apathy' to drinking

Penn State grand jury report

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - A grand jury's report in the wake of a pledge's drinking death says that Penn State officials displayed "a shocking apathy" to dangers from excessive drinking and that its inaction allowed criminal acts to occur.

The report released Friday by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller recommends a series of changes that the school should undertake in the wake of the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza in February.

A Penn State spokesman did not have an immediate comment. The school permanently banned Beta Theta Pi in March, saying its investigation found a persistent pattern of excessive and forced drinking, hazing and drug use and sales.

The report calls on state lawmakers to pass stronger laws to deter hazing and underage drinking. It also calls on Penn State to regulate drinking itself, rather than hold a fraternity council responsible, and for the university to expel students involved in hazing after they are "afforded full due process rights."

"Anything less will fail to operate as a truly effective deterrent," according to the report.

In February, Piazza, of Hunterdon County, N.J., died after an alcohol-fueled hazing event.

Authorities said Piazza died after becoming extremely drunk during a hazing ritual called "the gauntlet." It was a four-minute booze obstacle-style course set up inside the Beta Theta Pi frat house. Prosecutors said Piazza fell down a set of stairs twice and it took fraternity members 12 hours to call for help.

A Centre County district judge in September dismissed the most serious charges against members of the fraternity. Prosecutors in November filed charges against new frat members after recovering security footage from the house.

The entire grand jury report is available for review on the Centre County website.

WFMZ's Bo Koltnow was in Centre County for the district attorney's news conference. He'll have more on the grand jury's findings today at 5 p.m.

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