A judge threw out involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault charges Friday against members of a Penn State fraternity in the alcohol-related hazing death of a pledge, ordering 12 of the young men to stand trial on less serious counts.

The ruling, issued without explanation by District Justice Allen Sinclair, was a stinging defeat for prosecutors in one of the biggest and most harrowing hazing cases ever brought in the U.S., built on hours of security camera footage and numerous text messages exchanged among fraternity brothers.

“Obviously now the teeth have really been taken out of the commonwealth’s case,” said Michael Engle, defense attorney for Gary DiBileo, 21.

Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died in February after guzzling vodka and beer at a series of drinking stations at the now-closed Beta Theta Pi house and then falling head-first down the basement stairs.

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