A former Penn State fraternity wants to have the Centre County district attorney slapped with contempt.
The Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi, which was permanently banned from Penn State on March 30, filed a motion on Friday asking the Centre County Court of Common Pleas to hold District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller in contempt.
The chapter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as 50 counts of hazing and 96 counts of alcohol crimes stemming from the February death of Timothy Piazza, who sustained fatal injuries at a pledge party. It’s also been locked in a battle with the authorities since March over the video surveillance from that night.
The Second Motion for Contempt, Sanctions and To Compel filed at 10:40 a.m. Friday asks the court to force 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.”
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According to the documents, the DA is in “willful violation” of orders dated April 25, April 28, May 3 and May 10. Those orders were not visible in the court record of the case, which was only reopened on May 16 after being sealed due to the overlap with the case presented to the investigating grand jury.
“My office is not in contempt of any orders,” Parks Miller said in a statement. “We were ordered to give the Corporations lawyer a copy of what we made. We did this. This is after he insistently and relentlessly litigated to try and have the original tape system, showing the crime of Tim Piazza’s hazing furnishing and essentially his death, given back to them.
“We were not going to do that any more than we would give a murder weapon back to the accused murdered as an investigation starts.”
According to the grand jury presentment issued May 5, the video evidence played a large part in the case, detailing Piazza’s last hours and the behavior of fraternity members over the 12 -hour period between his initial injury and the call for help.
Alpha Upsilon’s motion does say Parks Miller turned over “an external expansion drive containing some limited video footage” on May 10, but the fraternity says this does not comply with the order. The motion also says “each of the video files appears to have been modified on or after” Feb. 10, although the equipment was seized on Feb. 6.
Parks Miller said there are not four orders but one, and said insisting on the originals “does not bode well for them.”
In a separate filing on the criminal charges, the chapter filed a request for a bill of particulars.
According to state code, “The traditional function of a bill of particulars is to clarify the pleadings and to limit the evidence which can be offered to support the information.”
The request, formally directed to Parks Miller, asks to have the “factual predicate for each and every count of each and every offense” against the chapter.
In addition, the fraternity’s attorney, Michael Leahey, asked for “specific acts, language or behavior” of each offense and “exact time, date and place” for everything done or not done.
The fraternity was charged, but so were 18 individuals.
“The grand jury’s findings of fact consist of 310 paragraphs, not one of which suggests any level of criminal culpability to the corporate defendant,” Leahey wrote. “The ‘Beta brothers’ whom the indictment identifies belonged to the ‘Active Chapter of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi’ at the dates and times set forth in the indictment, not the corporate defendant.”
This is not the first time that the layers of membership and responsibility have become an issue in the case.
The Alpha Upsilon chapter was arraigned on May 9. The charges originally announced were against Beta Theta Pi, but those were withdrawn as that would refer to the national organization.
The chapter’s “alumni corporation board” is a separate entity. The no-longer active chapter has a president, Brendan Young, one of the men charged.