2nd man pleads guilty to hazing in Penn St. frat death case

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.

Ems, 22, of Philadelphia, is the second member of the now-closed fraternity to plead guilty.

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

Phone messages seeking comment from the attorney general’s office and from Ems’ defense attorneys were not immediately returned.

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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