UD Transfer Student Sentenced To Jail In Connection To Penn State Hazing Death

Sean Newhouse and Grace James 
News Editor and Contributing Writer 

Update: 4/15/19 8:40 a.m.: Flyer News received word from UD’s Alpha Phi Omega outgoing chapter president Nate Borries that “Josh [Kurczewski] has decided to not pursue initiation into Alpha Phi Omega on his own terms.” 

Editor’s Note: Sean Newhouse – the co-writer of this article and the Flyer News news editor – is a member of Alpha Phi Omega (APO). He realized who Joshua Kurczewski was after recognizing his name and face in an ABC news article. Grace James – the other writer – did all the reporting on APO for this article. As of April 14, Sean Newhouse has taken a leave of absence from APO.

Joshua Kurczewski was one of three former members of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn State University (PSU) sentenced on April 2 to three to nine months in jail after pleading guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit hazing, one count of hazing and one count of furnishing liquid to a minor in connection to the death in February 2017 of Timothy Piazza, who was pledging the fraternity.

Kurczewski is a junior at the University of Dayton (UD) who enrolled in January 2018, according to university officials. Currently, Kurczewski is pledging a different fraternity – Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a national co-ed service-based fraternity that has a chapter on UD’s campus.

Flyer News asked university officials about the circumstances of Kurczewski’s admission to UD and if he will face disciplinary action from the university in light of his sentencing. Besides confirming that he was a student, the university could not go into specifics due to federal laws protecting student privacy.

Flyer News reached out to Kurczewski for a comment and received a response that he was “not in a place to make any comments on the matter at this time.”

According to Bob London, the national executive director of APO, the decision to accept Kurczewski into the fraternity would be made by UD’s chapter and would not be handled at the national level.

Graphic of UD’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and Penn State’s Old Main created by Liv Pettigrew

“If an individual is accepted into the school full-time, then a chapter would be free to make them a member,” London said. “As an inclusive organization, that’s part of who we are.”

The national organization did not have a stance on whether Kurczewski’s character was compatible with the co-ed service fraternity’s principles.

“I could probably argue it both ways,” London said. “If the individual is remorseful for his horrific acts and behaviors at Penn State and we’re part of the rehabilitation process, I could see that being fine.”

The decision on whether to initiate Kurczewski would be made in accordance with UD’s APO chapter by-laws. It is unclear if Kurczewski will be initiated into APO.

Flyer News contacted the president of UD’s APO chapter for a comment on whether Kurczewski would be initiated. He has not responded with an answer.

Flyer News also reached out to the president of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at UD for a comment, but he declined due to national fraternity policy on public comments.

Piazza died after an “alcohol-fueled” event at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at Penn State. According to a memo from the deputy attorney general, Kurczewski gave beer to 10 pledges, including Piazza.

Kurczewski was at the bottom of the staircase when Piazza fell down the steps. A doctor determined Piazza’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was between .28 and .36 percent. To compare, the legal limit while driving intoxicated is .08 percent. Over the course of the night, Piazza suffered a fractured skull and lacerated spleen.

The memo also states Kurczewski witnessed “[f]raternity members put a backpack containing textbooks on [Piazza] so he would not suffocate on his own vomit.” The fraternity members called 911 12 hours after Piazza fell down the steps.

The deputy attorney general wrote that Penn State educates incoming students about the dangers of high-risk alcoholic behavior.

“Kurczewski was provided with everything he needed to know in order to avoid becoming an integral part of the events that proved fatal for Piazza, or to intervene in time to save his life,” the deputy attorney general wrote. “He chose to do neither.”

In addition to serving three to nine months in jail, Kurczewski has been ordered to pay a $2,250 fine, perform 100 hours of community service and complete a year of probation. He also admitted to smoking marijuana, which violated the conditions of his bail.

Kurczewski’s sentence is set to begin on May 17.

The student newspaper of Loyola Marymount, a Catholic university in Los Angeles, reported on April 10 that Luke Visser, who was charged with Kurczewski, is a senior transfer student at the West Coast institution. He was sentenced to two to six months in jail.

Additional sentencings are expected for more former members of the Beta Theta Pi chapter at Penn State.