Results of the grand jury probe into the death of 19-year-old Tim Piazza following a pledge night party at a Penn State fraternity are due out tomorrow.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced that she would hold a press conference on the investigation at 10 a.m. Friday in Bellefonte.
That's just three hours before Penn State's board of trustees is scheduled to hold its regular meeting and as commencement weekend festivities get underway.
Penn State officials said they are prepared to react appropriately.
"I'm not sure what we will say that hasn't already been said because we've been pretty clear about our position on this," Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs , said.
The university permanently banned Beta Theta Pi, the fraternity where Piazza fell down a flight of steps during a pledge night event. Fraternity members didn't call for help until the next morning, about 12 hours later, and Piazza, a sophomore engineering major from Lebanon, N.J., died the next day, having suffered a non-recoverable brain injury, ruptured spleen and collapsed lung.
Prosecutors have been probing circumstances around Piazza's death and indicated in court filings that they expect multiple people to be charged but did not specify the charges. Defense attorneys have said prosecutors were looking at charges including hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors, reckless endangerment and manslaughter.
Prosecutors have said in court filings that they recovered video from the fraternity house from the night Piazza died, have shown portions to the grand jury and expect it to be key evidence in the case.
'I have no idea what they know that we don't know," Sims said. The university's investigation, he said, revealed "gross misuse of alcohol and hazing sufficient to persuade us that we should take the actions that we did.
"We have done everything we possibly can to respond to circumstances that have ben revealed to us," Sims said.
In addition to banning Beta Theta Pi, Penn State instituted new rules for the rest of the Greek system. The university is home to 83 fraternities and sororities with about 18 percent of the student body participating.
Piazza's parents, Jim and Evelyn, have hired Philadelphia lawyer Tom Kline and have said they want to make sure everyone responsible for their son's death is held accountable.
While the university prepares to react to the fraternity case, it also may be faced with developments in a long-standing controversy over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
Jay Paterno, son of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, is one of four candidates vying for three open alumni-elected seats on the board and the results of the election will be announced during the meeting. Jay Paterno has been critical of the trustees handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and has ardently defended his father, who the board fired as head coach after Sandusky's indictment in 2011.
Also at Thursday's board committee meetings, university officials noted that Penn State had collected $315.3 million toward a fundraising campaign goal of $1.68 billion. The campaign is due to conclude on June 30, 2021.
The university will need to raise about $320 million a year for the next four years, said Rich Bundy, director of development.
Trustee Anthony Lubrano noted that a very prominent donor recently sent a letter to the school, noting that he would not donate any more money because of the school's statement in reaction to the conviction of former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier on child endangerment in connection with the Sandusky case. The university in its statement said the verdict and guilty pleas to child endangerment by two other ex Penn State administrators indicated "a profound failure of leadership."
Both Lubrano and trustee Ryan McCombie declined to name the donor, but Lubrano said the donor has given more than $10 million and has the capacity to give a lot more.
The board's committee on outreach, development and community relations also agreed to have a subcommittee look into the way public comment is structured at board meetings. The board began to allow public comment in 2012 after the Sandusky scandal broke.
The public used to speak to trustees during their regular public meeting, but the comment period was moved and now occurs before the private session of the board without the rest of the audience in attendance. The change came as comments, particularly about the Sandusky scandal, became increasingly biting, at times drawing reaction from the audience.
"We have an obligation to allow the public to speak whether or not we like what they say," Lubrano said, noting that about 10 percent of the university's budget comes from state funding.