The Alpha Upsilon chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity has filed yet another motion seeking the return of video surveillance equipment taken from the Penn State fraternity house in February.
The motion, which was filed with the Centre County Court of Common Pleas on Monday, “moves this honorable court to compel (the State College police) to obtain the return of the video equipment and comply with its Aug. 7, 2017, order.” The equipment, according to previous statements by District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, is currently in the hands of the FBI.
According to court documents, an order signed Aug. 7 by Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler gives the State College police 10 days to designate a forensic video analyst, reinstating all provisions of an order made on May 30. Should the analysts not be able to agree on a method to duplicate the surveillance footage, a conference is scheduled for Aug. 25 at the Centre County Courthouse.
Alpha Upsilon traced the legal timeline of its attempts to retrieve the video equipment in its Aug. 14 motion, noting that a consent to search and seizure required the State College police to return two “Speco Tech DVR boxes” taken from the Beta Theta Pi house on Feb. 6 “immediately upon completion of the digital download.”
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Police never returned the equipment despite repeated attempts by Alpha Upsilon to regain the boxes, the motion said, so a motion to compel the return was filed on March 17. A court order granting the motion was entered April 25, directing the District Attorney’s Office to return the equipment within 48 hours.
Parks Miller instead appealed the ruling with the state Supreme Court, the motion said, which was denied on April 27. The next day, Alpha Upsilon filed and was granted a motion to compel, ordering the return of the equipment by the close of business that day.
The District Attorney’s Office filed another emergency motion to stay, the motion said. Parks Miller then moved for a reconsideration of the court order, which was denied on May 3, ordering for the production of a copy of the footage to Alpha Upsilon by May 4.
An attempt by an Alpha Upsilon attorney to retrieve a copy of the footage on May 5 proved fruitless, the motion said, so a motion for contempt was filed May 10 along with another court-issued order requiring the District Attorney’s Office to turn over a copy of the footage that day. An “external expansion drive” was turned over with “limited footage,” but Alpha Upsilon believed that many additional days of footage was on the equipment.
The footage also appeared to have been modified on or after Feb. 10, the motion said, four days after it was taken by police.
“Given that these video files appeared to have been modified after the equipment was in the possession of the State College Police Department,” the motion said, “it was impossible for Alpha Upsilon to determine the files’ authenticity.”
Another motion for contempt and to compel was filed May 19, the motion said, with a court order for police to respond to the motion by June 8. The order also required each party to identify a qualified analyst to participate in the duplication and preservation of the footage within 15 days.
Alpha Upsilon identified an analyst on June 7, the motion said. The District Attorney’s Office appealed the scheduled order the next day, which was quashed by the state Supreme Court on June 23.
Kistler’s Aug. 7 order was filed, the motion said, however, Parks Miller indicated on Aug. 9 that the surveillance equipment had been sent to the FBI for analysis, saying it was believed that footage from the basement on the night in question had been deleted by an unnamed party.
“Sending the equipment to a third party who will examine the hard drives in a manner unknown to Alpha Upsilon violates this order,” the motion said.
Alpha Upsilon now moves for an order compelling police to obtain the equipment from the FBI to comply with the Aug. 7 order.
The District Attorney’s Office has not yet commented on this motion.