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1st Frat Brother Sentenced in Penn State Hazing Death Case

Ryan Burke avoids jail, is sentenced to house arrest
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 31, 2018 4:43 PM CDT
FILE - This Nov. 9, 2017, file photo shows the shuttered Beta Theta Pi fraternity house on Penn State University's main campus in State College, Pa. During a Tuesday, July 31, 2018, sentencing hearing,...   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
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(Newser) – A Penn State University fraternity member who plied a pledge with vodka the night he was fatally injured in a series of falls avoided jail time on Tuesday when a judge sentenced him to three months of house arrest, the AP reports. Ryan Burke, the first frat brother sentenced in the case, apologized to the parents of Tim Piazza, who died in February 2017 after a night of drinking and hazing in the Beta Theta Pi house. Burke said he was "truly sorry" and accepted responsibility for his role in the events that led to Piazza's death from severe head and abdominal injuries he suffered the night he accepted a pledge bid. Judge Brian Marshall also gave Burke 27 months of probation, fined him more than $3,000, and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service. "The court was shocked by what happened that night," Marshall said, adding he was "mindful that there were many involved."

Burke, 21, of Scranton, had pleaded guilty to four counts of hazing and five alcohol violations. More than two dozen other members of the now-closed Beta Theta Pi fraternity still face charges. A hearing for some is planned for next month, and a trial for others is set for February. The attorney for the Piazza family, Thomas Kline, called the first sentence "an important step on the long road to justice" for the Piazzas. Prosecutor Brian Zarallo with the attorney general's office said Burke played a key role in what occurred, heading up the fraternity's effort to recruit members and physically leading them into a drinking station gauntlet that began a night of heavy drinking captured on the building's elaborate video security system. He played a videotape in which Burke could be identified plying pledges with a bottle of 80-proof vodka, and said Burke seemed nonchalant about Piazza's medical condition after he endured a bad fall down the basement steps.

(Read more Penn State stories.)

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