2 Penn State rugby players face felony charges in connection with shed fire

mcarroll@centredaily.comMarch 19, 2014 

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Penn State police have charged two rugby players with setting a fire that destroyed a storage shed on the university’s western edge of campus in January.

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Penn State rugby players vented about messing with the team’s storage shed at a house party in Janurary, but two teammates took things too far and burned the structure to the ground, police have alleged.

Sean Herbert, 21, and Christopher Petri, 22, both Penn State students, face multiple felony charges in connection with a fire that destroyed a shed used to store equipment for the university’s rugby and cross country teams.

Penn State police filed charges against the pair Tuesday, alleging they intentionally set the blaze in the early morning hours of Jan. 14.

Herbert and Petri were at a party in their home, known as the Rugby House because a number of players live there, when they left with a lighter and a bottle of lighter fluid and made their way to the shed, according to a criminal complaint.

People at the party were venting frustrations with the status of the team and made comments that they would “mess with the shed,” or set a fire, police said. But no overt plan to commit a crime was made during the party, they added.

Herbert and Petri are accused of taking things a step further, leaving their North Patterson Street residence for the shed, located at in the Red A parking lot next to the university soccer fields on North Atherton Street, and starting the fire, police said.

Attorney Tim Fleming, who is representing Herbert, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Steve Trialonas initially represented Petri, but the man has since switched attorneys, and the name of his current lawyer was not available.

Herbert and Petri allegedly told police in separate interviews last month that they only meant to burn a blocking pad, but they didn’t remove the piece of equipment from the shed before setting it on fire. The flames spread and the two were not able to put them out. They panicked and fled the scene, the two allegedly said.

They each face eight felony charges in the case, including arson, criminal conspiracy and criminal mischief. Both were arraigned Tuesday and released on $25,000 unsecured bail.

Preliminary hearings for the pair are scheduled for March 26 in Centre County court.

University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said in an email that arson is “a serious crime and it is now in the hands of the courts.”

Powers said the students will face sanctions if they are found to have violated the university’s code of conduct. They could also face additional discipline from the rugby team.

“As is the norm with our conduct process, it is expected that officials who oversee the team (coaches) will consider the appropriateness of disciplinary sanctions for these players,” she said.

The rugby program is classified by the university as a team sport, rather than a club sport, and because of that is part of Penn State’s intercollegiate athletics department, according to its website.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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