Three former Penn State University fraternity members, including a 21-year-old from Cherokee County, have been sentenced to jail time in the 2017 death of a pledge.
A Pennsylvania judge ordered Michael Bonatucci of Woodstock to serve 30 days to six months in jail in connection with the death of Tim Piazza, who was pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
Fraternity brothers Luke Visser, 21, and Joshua Kurczewski, 20, were sentenced to two to six months and three to nine months, respectively.
The three defendants are the first ordered to serve time in a case that rewrote Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law, according to The Associated Press.
Piazza died Feb. 4, 2017, two days after a drinking party at the frat house. A grand jury found the 19-year-old died as a direct result of "reckless conduct" of members of the fraternity, aided by the permissive atmosphere fostered by Penn State's Interfraternity Council, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.
Piazza drank heavily on the night of a bid acceptance ceremony, consuming several times the legal limit of alcohol, according to multiple media outlets. He was killed in a series of falls, and his death was captured on the house’s video security system.
The student suffered severe head and abdominal injuries. He ended up in the basement the next morning, but it took members 40 minutes to call for help after finding him injured and unconscious.
Prosecutors said Bonatucci and the other men sentenced Tuesday were involved in providing alcohol to pledges and pressuring them to drink, media outlets reported. The 2016 Woodstock High School graduate pleaded guilty to three counts of hazing and one count of conspiracy to commit hazing in January.
In a sentencing memo filed March 26, Bonatucci’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone, said his client did not know Piazza and left before he fell down the fraternity’s steps.
Asia Simone Burns is a watchdog reporter for the AJC. Burns was formerly an intern in AJC’s newsroom and now writes about crime. She is a graduate of Samford University and has previously reported for NPR and WABE, Atlanta’s NPR member station.