Charges of involuntary manslaughter and felony aggravated assault were dropped by District Justice Allen Sinclair on Friday September 1st, 2017. Eight brothers faced these serious charges including our client Joe Sala, 19, of Erie, Pennsylvania (shown above).
This decision considerably reduces the chance of any of the Defendants facing jail time. Lesser charges of hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and reckless endangerment are the remaining charges that will take 14 of the 18 brothers to trial as well as the fraternity itself.
"We're relieved," said Sala's Attorney Leonard G. Ambrose III. "It doesn't mean this is over. It may be round one or round two but we'll go as many rounds as we have to go."
This is said to be one of the longest Preliminary Hearings in Centre County Court, lasting a total of 8 days.
Tim Bream, the fraternity adviser, had knowledge of the night in question and filed to have the bid acceptance party, on February 2nd, 2017, registered with the Penn State Interfraternity Council which Attorney Ambrose argued in court on August 11th, 2017.
Leonard Ambrose also brought the courts attention to a text message from Bream where he advised the brothers to delete their messages on the "GroupMe" phone application.
Ambrose said, "Tim couldn't have had an idea about deleting unless he was aware of the underlying circumstances." He also argued the point, "if the evidence shows the Beta members reasonably believed they were acting with Bream's consent, it would negate some major elements of the most serious charges against them" with reference to the elements of charge that the brothers were acting "recklessly," or with "extreme indifference to human life."
Bream testified that he was asleep while all of this was going on downstairs and that it was not his job to watch over the parties. The District Judge Allen Sinclair ultimately came to the conclusion that Bream was not in contempt of court and dismissed him from the court room before any of the Defense Attorney's had a chance to question him.
"We have a right to question him (Bream) about the activities that occurred, as well as his permission that these activities could occur." said Ambrose. To which Parks Miller stated that there was no evidence to support the thought that Bream had any knowledge of Tim's injuries nor did any of the brothers consult him on how to handle the situation. From which she does not see Bream holding any criminal responsibly to her client's death.
"(Bream) was the captain of his ship. He's in charge of everything that goes on in the ship. I'm not saying he's responsible (for Piazza's death), I'm saying I want to know what his rights and obligations were." stated Ambrose.
Stacy Parks miller is not pleased with this decision, for which she has vowed to refile the charges of involuntary manslaughter.
"She can refile, but obviously we're going to contest any refiling. She had seven days to make her case." Ambrose also states that there was "no basis for most of the charges."
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