Luke Visser, one of 18 defendants in the death of Timothy Piazza, arrived for his preliminary hearing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa., on Monday. (Chris Knight/Associated Press)

One at a time, the pledges of Beta Theta Pi walked through the doorway and were handed a bottle of vodka from which to chug.

Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore from New Jersey, grabbed the bottle and turned it upside down, taking a long swig. It was one of his last conscious actions, and thanks to the fraternity’s surveillance cameras, it was on full view in a courtroom Monday not far from Pennsylvania State University, where lawyers, spectators and more than a dozen of Mr. Piazza’s fraternity brothers watched what happened, and did not happen, next.

Mr. Piazza staggered through a kitchen, the top half of his body flailing as if disconnected from the bottom. He tried to leave the fraternity house, but was unable to gather himself enough to push open the front door. At one point, not captured on video, he apparently fell down a flight of stairs.

Gasps went up from many in the gallery as they watched Mr. Piazza’s fraternity brothers drop his limp body on a couch, sit on his legs and jam his arms into a backpack filled with books, to keep him from falling over and potentially choking on his own vomit.

The cameras rolled as Mr. Piazza threw up into a mop bucket. The fraternity brothers plugged their noses, then argued with one another, in person and on their phones, about what to do.

“They’re treating him like a rag doll,” the district attorney, Stacy Parks Miller, said as the video played.

Mr. Piazza managed to stumble upright a few times during the night, each effort ending with him hitting his head on a railing, on the stone floor or on a heavy piece of furniture. A few times, a fraternity brother walked into the lobby, saw him lying there and walked on.

By the time someone called an ambulance, it was 10:48 a.m., nearly 12 hours after Mr. Piazza’s ordeal began. He died the next day of what an autopsy concluded were “multiple traumatic injuries.”

In one of the largest-ever prosecutions related to a fraternity death, 18 Penn State students are facing charges in the case. Eight are charged with involuntary manslaughter; 10 face lesser charges, including hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors at various fraternity events.

The hearing Monday was to determine whether prosecutors had enough evidence to move forward with the case. Magisterial District Judge Allen W. Sinclair did not rule and said the hearing would resume on another day, when defense lawyers would be able to make arguments.

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SOURCE; NY Times, Caitlin Dickerson

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