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District Attorney to Announce Results of Investigation into Deleted Beta Theta Pi Footage

by and on November 09, 2017 4:14 PM

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller will announce on Monday results of an investigation into the footage from the basement of Beta Theta Pi fraternity house that was allegedly deleted after the death of fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza on Feb. 4.

“The video was deleted after brothers were made aware that an investigation into Tim Piazza’s death was underway and police planned to obtain the footage,” a media advisory from the DA's office stated. “The basement video captures the ongoing hazing that occurred on bid acceptance night and the continued repeated furnishing of alcohol by Beta brothers to Tim Piazza, as well as the other pledges, throughout the evening.”

Piazza suffered fatal brain injuries and internal bleeding after falling multiple times the night of Feb. 2 and morning of Feb. 3 during an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance night at the fraternity house.

Surveillance video footage from inside the house showing common areas on the first floor provided a significant amount of evidence used to bring a variety of charges against former Beta Theta Pi members. The footage was outlined in the grand jury presentment, which was released in May, and hours of footage were shown during preliminary hearings for the case over the summer.

During those hearings, State College Police Det. David Scicchitano, the lead investigator in the case, testified that new evidence indicated footage from the basement of the fraternity house was deleted. Police were previously told the surveillance cameras in the basement were not working during bid acceptance night.

According to court documents and hearing testimony, the basement was the site of part of the hazing involving alcohol that took place the night of Feb. 2 as well as a social with an all-female organization called Trilogy, believed to be the the underground re-convention of Delta Delta Delta sorority, which was shut down by its national organization in 2009 over hazing allegations.

The footage may show Piazza's head-first fall down the basement stairs at 11:22 p.m., as well as what exactly happened to him the following morning. Piazza was last seen on the first-floor cameras at 7:55 a.m. on Feb. 3 as he staggered toward the basement stairs then out of frame. Fraternity members and pledges said he was found unconscious under a bar in the basement around 10 a.m.He was next seen on camera around that time as members carried his rigid body back into view on the first floor.

Scicchitano said footage from resumed a few days later on Feb. 6, but everything before that was erased. He said during the preliminary hearings in August that police had a suspect who was among the defendants, but no charges had been filed at that time.

The video was sent to the FBI for analysis in August. The Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, which is the alumni corporation that owns the fraternity house, had been fighting the DA's office for months to have the video footage and equipment returned. A judge ultimately denied the chapter's motion to compel its return. 

Charges against some defendants were dismissed on Sept. 1 at the conclusion of the preliminary hearings. Parks Miller recently refiled some of those charges and 14 men and the Alpha Upsilon chapter are still facing charges.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.


Elissa Hill is an associate editor for Onward State.
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