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First guilty plea entered in Penn State fraternity death

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A former Penn State University fraternity brother on Wednesday entered the first guilty plea in the death of a pledge who was fatally injured after a night of heavy drinking and hazing.

Ryan Burke, 21, of Scranton, pleaded guilty Wednesday to all nine remaining charges he faced, including four misdemeanors alleging hazing. Other charges were previously dismissed or withdrawn.

"There are too few words to describe a loss so great. This young man understands that," Burke's attorney, Philip Masorti, said outside the courthouse, putting his hand on Burke's shoulder. "This is a tragedy, and he is anxious to make amends."

Engineering student Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, drank a dangerous amount of alcohol and suffered fatal head and abdominal injuries in a series of falls during a bid acceptance ceremony and party last year. Members of the fraternity took half-hearted and even counterproductive steps to address his condition.

Burke was accused of giving Piazza a bottle of vodka at the party. He'll be sentenced July 31.

"We are pleased to see one individual accept responsibility and encourage others to follow in his steps," said Tom Kline, attorney for Piazza's parents.

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

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