Penn State fraternity death case: Second man pleads guilty to hazing

Joseph G. Ems Jr., 22, was charged as a result of a pledge's death, but the charges against him relate to his behavior with another pledge.
/ Source: Associated Press
Image: Joseph G. Ems Jr., left, arrives  at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte
Joseph G. Ems Jr., left, arrives at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania on June 12, 2017.Chris Knight / AP file

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BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State fraternity member pleaded guilty Wednesday to two misdemeanor charges filed as a result of a pledge's death after a night of drinking and hazing last year.

Joseph G. Ems Jr. pleaded guilty to hazing and an alcohol offense and was scheduled for sentencing Sept. 27.

Ems was charged as a result of the investigation into the death of Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, who suffered severe head and abdominal injuries in February 2017, the night he consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol at the Beta Theta Pi house.

Image: Tim Piazza
Tim PiazzaFamily photo

Ems, 22, of Philadelphia, is the second member of the now-closed fraternity to plead guilty. Both charges against him relate to his behavior with another pledge, not Piazza.

The other, Ryan Burke, was sentenced last week to house arrest and probation for four counts of hazing and five alcohol-related violations.

Messages seeking comment from the attorney general's office were not immediately returned. Ems' lawyer declined comment.

Ems originally was charged in May 2017 with a single count of reckless endangerment. A grand jury report claimed he was one of four people to strap onto Piazza a backpack loaded with books to prevent him from rolling over. That grand jury report also alleged that Ems participated, with two others, in picking up Piazza from the floor in and slamming him onto a couch.

After a marathon preliminary hearing, a district judge dismissed that charge.

Prosecutors cited security video footage recovered by the FBI in charging him with new allegations in November.

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