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Charges Refiled Again for Beta Theta Pi Brother Accused of Deleting Video

by on October 03, 2018 12:15 PM

A former Beta Theta Pi member is once again facing charges on allegations that he deleted fraternity basement video from the night pledge Timothy Piazza sustained fatal injuries.

Braxton R. Becker was initially charged with tampering with evidence in May 2017 and had that count dismissed the following September. Tampering and related charges were refiled two more times after the basement video was recovered and dismissed by district judges after preliminary hearings.

Police refiled charges of tampering, obstruction and hindering prosecution on Tuesday after representatives of the manufacturer for the house's video recording system provided new information.

The fraternity's house manager, Becker assisted police in retrieving surveillance video from the alcohol-fueled bid acceptance night when Piazza, a Penn State sophomore, fell head-first down the basement stairs. Police said they were told the basement cameras were not working, but the recording devices were sent to the FBI which recovered the video.

Investigators said a "clear all data" command appeared on the system log from the same time Becker was working on retrieving the video. At the most recent preliminary hearing in August, District Judge Carmine Prestia dismissed charges of tampering, obstruction and hindering prosecution.

"The systems were known to have problems, some cameras were not working and the LAN indication on the log indicates possible remote access to the devices," Prestia wrote in his decision. "Defendant's presence at the systems is insufficient given that no evidence was observed by the police officer that would indicate the system was deleting files at the time of observation and according to the Commonwealth's expert witness the system was in 'Clip and Save' mode that by design would prevent data deletion." 

According to the new criminal complaint, in September an agent from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, spoke to Yolanda Herrera, a technical support manager, and Peter Botelho, executive vice president, of Speco Technologies, the manufacturer of the surveillance system and DVR boxes used at the Beta Theta Pi house.

Herrera reviewed the system log from the DVR box recording the basement video and said it could be accessed locally at the DVR or remotely. Anytime it was being accessed remotely, an Internet Protocol address and an "R" would appear in the system log, she said, according to the complaint.

She told investigators that a line in the system log indicating "LAN" only meant a user had accessed that part of the DVR to potentially make a change to the settings, and "that the user was accessing the LAN portion of the DVR locally and not remotely since there was no 'R' on the system log history."

Herrera further said, according to the complaint, that it was true while the DVR was in "clip-copy" mode, a "clear all data" command could not be executed. However, she said it would only take two clicks to exit out of clip-copy and that the clip-copy function would only appear on the system history log if the user executed the export command.

For the "clear all data" command, Herrera said her review of the system log "made it clear the user who performed the manual deletion had to have been physically located at the DVR box itself and could not have been performed from another location," according to the complaint.

Becker's next preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7.

Eleven other defendants in the fraternity hazing case are still scheduled for trial on a variety of charges in February 2019. Seven defendants have pleaded or are scheduled to plead guilty and four have been accepted into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program.



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