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3 fraternity brothers sentenced to jail in Penn State hazing death

CNN logo CNN 4/3/2019 By Madeline Holcombe, CNN
a group of people posing for the camera © Patrick Carns Photography

Four former Penn State University fraternity brothers have been sentenced in connection with the death of a pledge during a hazing ritual, with three receiving jail time, according to a source familiar with the case.

Luke Visser, Joseph Sala, Joshua Kurczewski and Michael Bonatucci, former members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, were sentenced on Tuesday in Centre County Court.

Each had pleaded guilty to hazing-related charges in connection with the February 2017 death of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State. Piazza died after drinking large quantities of alcohol during his first night of pledging at Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

According to the source, Visser was sentenced to two to six months in jail and two years of probation. Kurczewski, who also pleaded guilty to one count of furnishing alcohol to minors, received three to nine months in jail and one year of probation. Bonatucci was sentenced to 30 to 60 days in jail and a year of probation. Sala received three to six months of house arrest and two years of probation. The men must also pay fines and perform community service, according to the source.

Related video: Father: Why didn't fraternity call 911 sooner? (CNN)

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This the first time jail sentences have been handed out in the case, though there is a possibility a judge may amend the sentences to house arrest, the source said.

Piazza was pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity when he drank 18 drinks in 82 minutes as part of a hazing ritual. He fell down a flight of stairs into the fraternity house's basement, and fraternity members waited 12 hours to call 911. Piazza ended up dying from a traumatic brain injury, according to court records and testimony.

Piazza's blood-alcohol level went "from a zero to as high as a .36," a grand jury report said, four-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Eleven Penn State Fraternity members went to trial in the death. Charges initially included involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, but those were dismissed by the judge.

In December, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an anti-hazing bill named after Piazza that requires Pennsylvania schools to have policies and reporting procedures in place to stop hazing.

The state became the 45th to enact anti-hazing laws -- 12 of those make hazing a felony if it results in death or serious injury --and there have been more than 77 fraternity-related deaths across the country since 2005.

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