Ex-Penn State fraternity member sentenced to house arrest, probation in pledge’s death

Ryan Burke, left, was sentenced in the case related to the death of 19-year-old fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza at Penn State University.

A former Penn State University fraternity brother was sentenced Tuesday to three months of house arrest and 27 months of probation in connection to the death of a pledge who was fatally injured during a night of heavy drinking.

Ryan Burke, 21, of Scranton, was the first of more than 20 defendants to plead guilty to four counts of hazing and five alcohol violations in the death of engineering student Tim Piazza in February 2017.

Piazza, a sophomore from Lebanon, New Jersey, drank a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered fatal head and abdominal injuries in a series of falls during a party by the now-closed Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

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Tim Piazza, a sophomore engineering student at Penn State, died after drinking a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered fatal head and abdominal injuries in a series of falls during a party by Beta Theta Pi fraternity.  (AP )

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.

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