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Parents of hazed student, Penn. fraternity reach settlement

By Sommer Brokaw

Sept. 5 (UPI) -- The parents of a Penn State University student who died last year, during a night of fraternity hazing, have accepted a settlement.

A "pre-litigation settlement" with the national Beta Theta Pi fraternity includes an undisclosed payment to the family of Timothy Piazza and agreement Beta houses will be alcohol-free within two years.

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The family said it hopes to "establish a baseline for the new norm of fraternity pledging and fraternity life at universities and colleges in the United States."

The fraternity also agreed to a 17-point agreement to make local chapters safer and penalize groups for hazing. Among those points is support for legislative changes that including enhancing criminal penalties for hazing activities that result in death or serious injury.

Some other key parts of the agreement aimed to give the Piazzas a voice in decision-making for future use of the closed Beta chapter house at Penn State, closing local chapters across the country and standing policy of immediate notification of violations.

Jeff Rundle, the fraternity's director, said the organization is focused on "accountability measures."

Piazza attorney Thomas Kline said the settlement was reached only with fraternity, so the family may still pursue civil claims against other parties involved -- including the university -- until a two-year statute of limitations runs out in February.

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Piazza, 19, died in February 2017 as a fraternity pledge. Officials said he fell down some stairs and received head and internal injuries.

Prosecutors argued the fraternity brothers had a legal duty to call for medical help after supplying him with alcohol, but ignored signals for more than 12 hours before they called 911. A district judge in March dismissed charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

Former fraternity member Ryan Burke pleaded guilty in July to charges of hazing in Piazza's death. Surveillance video shows Burke giving alcohol to several pledges as they went through "the gauntlet," the fraternity's obstacle course of drinking games.

Kline said 25 other members also face charges, and all have entered not guilty pleas. They are expected to face trial in February.

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