Tempers flare during 3rd day of hearing for Penn State frat brothers

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Tempers flare during 3rd day of hearing for PSU frat brothers. Chad Pradelli reports during Action News at 4pm on July 11, 2017. (WPVI)

Courtroom tensions ran high as members of a shuttered Penn State fraternity returned for Day Three of a preliminary hearing on charges related to the death of a pledge after a night of heavy drinking.

Tempers flared between attorneys for the 16 defendants and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

When the D.A. called the attorneys "the peanut gallery" after frustration over certain objections, one attorney screamed for immediate sanctions.

In another exchange, a defense attorney accused the D.A. of putting on a show.

Judge Allen Sinclair immediately called a recess. Afterwards, the proceedings were much calmer.

Some defense attorneys have argued they'd like their cases to be separated. Some defendants face far more serious charges than others.

It appears defense attorneys are trying to drive home a few points for reasonable doubt, and at the top of the list is laying blame on the alleged victim, Timothy Piazza.

Defense attorneys are also trying to compartmentalize the night of February 2nd into the so-called "gauntlet," where Piazza and other pledges chugged booze, and the party afterwards.

Defense attorney Frank Fina argued that anything consumed during the party was simply voluntary.

State College Police Detective Dave Scicchitano couldn't say how much Piazza drank during the two events.

But the D.A. responded during one objection to the judge by saying that Fina's point is irrelevant, that there was no major cutoff separating the two gauntlet and the party, and that what happened that fateful night should be considered one big event.

Scicchitano acknowledged at one point that Piazza was the only pledge to ever suffer serious bodily injury at the fraternity since it incorporated the so-called hazing ritual.

The cases of sixteen of the defendants, all members of the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi chapter, are being considered. Two others have waived the hearing.

Some of the accused face involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges in the death of the 19-year-old Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.

Others face less serious charges, including evidence tampering and hazing.

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Hazing death hearing: Tamala Edwards reports during Action News at 6:30 a.m. on July 11, 2017.

Piazza was severely injured at the house in February, a night captured on security video. Help wasn't called until the next morning.

The judge will decide if there's enough evidence to send the case to trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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