First defendant pleads guilty in fatal Penn State hazing

Ryan Burke, one of the former fraternity members charged in the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza, pleaded guilty Wednesday. (Min Xian/ WPSU)

Ryan Burke, one of the former fraternity members charged in the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza, pleaded guilty Wednesday. (Min Xian/ WPSU)

One of the former fraternity members charged in connection with last year’s hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza formally entered a guilty plea Wednesday. It’s the first guilty plea in the case.

Appearing in the Centre County, Pennsylvania, courthouse for the first time in this case, Ryan Burke pleaded guilty to all nine charges against him.

Prosecutors established the case against Burke based on surveillance footage, which showed him giving alcohol to four pledges — including Piazza — on the night of bid acceptance in February 2017. Piazza drank a dangerous amount of alcohol, fell down a flight of stairs and suffered fatal injuries.

Burke’s attorney, Phillip Masorti, said Burke, 21, is accepting responsibility and didn’t ask for a plea agreement.

“We came to court. We acknowledge responsibility, and he’s prepared to be sentenced,” Masorti told reporters as he and Burke left the courthouse.

Tom Kline, the lawyer for the Piazza family, said in a statement the Piazzas “are pleased to see one individual accept responsibility and encourage others to follow in his steps.”

“My office is committed to seeking justice on behalf of Tim Piazza and his family and holding every responsible individual accountable for their actions, consistent with the law and the evidence in this case,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

Twenty-five other defendants still face charges. A magistrate has previously thrown out the most serious charges — involuntary manslaughter — against five defendants.

Burke will be sentenced July 31.

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