The tragic death in February, 2017 of a 19-year-old Pennsylvania State University freshman at a fraternity party made worldwide headlines and once again brought the subject of hazing into the public conversation.
Twenty-six people are facing criminal charges as a result of the engineering student’s death, which was attributed to injuries he suffered when he fell down the stairs after consuming a large quantity of alcohol.
A 21-year-old Scranton man is now the first to plead guilty to charges related to the young pledge’s death. He has pleaded guilty to nine charges in all, including four hazing charges and charges involving underage purchase, transportation, possession and consumption of alcohol. More serious charges of assault, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment have been dropped.
Surveillance video from the fraternity house caught some of what happened that night leading up to the young man’s death, as well as the aftermath. Video captured images of fraternity members allegedly doing things like strapping a backpack to him while he was unconscious. They reportedly carried him back upstairs eventually, but they still waited 40 minutes after that to call an ambulance.
The attorney for the young man who pleaded guilty said, “There are too few words to describe a loss so great. This young man understands that.” He said that his client is “anxious to make amends.” The lawyer for the deceased young man’s parents said, “We are pleased to see one individual accept responsibility and encourage others to follow in his steps.”
While there is video evidence in this case that can help prosecutors determine precisely who took or didn’t take specific actions, that’s often not the case. When a number of people are present when a crime is committed, it can be difficult to determine the culpability of individual defendants. That’s why it’s generally wise for people to have their own attorneys to protect their rights and present their individual cases.