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Beta Theta Pi Wants Court to Hold Parks Miller in Contempt

by on May 19, 2017 3:29 PM

Attorneys for the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity filed a motion Friday requesting that the Centre County Court of Common Pleas hold District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller in contempt.

The fraternity chapter was charged earlier this month with involuntary manslaughter, 50 counts of hazing, 48 counts of furnishing alcohol to minors and 48 counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor after a grand jury investigation into the February death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza, a pledge who suffered a fatal fall during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance party at the fraternity's house. Eighteen former members of the fraternity are also facing a host of charges.

Video surveillance footage from the fraternity house provided extensive evidence to State College Police investigators, and the fraternity has been asking in court since March for the video to be returned.

In the motion filed Friday, the fraternity says Parks Miller should be held in contempt of court "for willful violations of this Court's orders dated April 25, 2017, April 28, 2017, May 3, 2017, and May 10, 2017." It asks the court to to compel the DA "to return a forensic copy of all digital contents of Alpha Upsilon's property, award attorneys' fees to Alpha Upsilon, and for appropriate sanctions to end the contempt."

The orders referenced are not publicly available because filings were sealed during that period and re-opened on Monday by Judge Thomas Kistler. According to the fraternity's motion, however, the court ordered the DA's office to turn over to the chapter "a certified forensic copy of video footage stored on [Alpha Upsilon's] equipment."

The court issued the order again on May 10. The fraternity says Parks Miller did turnover a drive containing "some limited video footage" which did not comply with the court's prior orders. The footage began at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 and concluded at 10:45 a.m. on Feb. 3. That time period, according to the grand jury presentment, includes the start of the bid acceptance party to just before a fraternity member called 911 about Piazza, who by that point was unconscious and suffering from a non-recoverable brain injury. The fraternity said that based on the capabilities of the surveillance equipment, there should be many days of additional video.

The filing also states that the video equipment was seized by police on Feb. 6, but that each video file appears to have been modified on or after Feb. 10.

"Given that these video files appear to have been modified after the equipment was in possession of the State College Police Department it is impossible for Alpha Upsilon to determine the files' authenticity," the motion stated.

In a separate motion the fraternity chapter, as a corporate defendant in the case, filed a request for a bill of particulars laying out the basis for each charge against it, the specific conduct committed by it, and the exact time, date and place where each alleged offense occurred.

"The grand jury's findings consist of 310 paragraphs, not one of which suggests any level of criminal culpability to the Corporate Defendant," the request said. "The 'Beta brothers' whom the indictment identifies belonged to the 'Active Chapter of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi' at the date and times set forth in the indictment, not the Corporate Defendant.

"Without such particulars the Corporate Defendant cannot ascertain the charges against it or otherwise properly and adequately prepare for trial."



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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