After a judge dismissed nearly all the most serious charges last September against several members of Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity in the death of a pledge, many of those accused were likely ready to move on with their lives. The case garnered national attention and sparked more conversations about the role that excessive alcohol consumption plays in campus Greek life.
This blog previously covered those court proceedings, noting how at the time many thought the Centre County district attorney's office rushed its investigation due to political reasons. Undeterred by the first setback, the prosecutor's office refiled more than 300 of those charges late last year, including charging several again with involuntary manslaughter.
Charges dismissed again
Late last month, however, the same judge dismissed all the most serious charges against 11 members of Beta Theta Pi. The only charges remaining involve alcohol violations and charges related to hazing. Of the more than 300 charges the 11 were facing, only fewer than 20 of those charges are moving forward.
Attorneys representing the defendants continue to argue that prosecution, now being handled by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, is wasting everyone's time.
Defendants need to remain vigilant
This saga is a reminder of the power that prosecutors have. After a judge quickly dismissed the most serious charges against the defendants, the prosecutors simply refiled them, keeping the defendants' futures twisting in the wind.
This also shows the need for effective legal representation as soon as someone learns they could be facing criminal charges and on an ongoing basis. An experienced criminal defense attorney can get to work conducting an independent investigation and building a strong defense that counters the narrative that prosecutors try to portray in the press and in court. The right attorney will also likely realize when it is necessary to keep up the fight if prosecutors refuse to give up, like in this case.