A new argument in a dispute over video recording equipment taken from the Beta Theta Pi house by State College police was made Thursday as District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller moved to have the fraternity’s motion for return of property dismissed.
In a series of legal actions stretching back to April, the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi has repeatedly attempted to secure the return of two video recorder boxes taken by police as evidence in the criminal case surrounding the death of Timothy Piazza. Piazza died from injuries sustained at a pledge party in February.
Parks Miller and Beta Theta Pi attorney Michael Leahey met in court on Aug. 24 before President Judge Thomas Kistler to argue the issue. Kistler has not yet issued a ruling on the arguments.
That day, Parks Miller also filed a motion for the dismissal of Beta Theta Pi’s motion for the return of the video equipment, with a brief in support filed Thursday.
According to the brief, unlike forfeiture actions, proceedings for the return of property arise under the rules of criminal procedure. Beta Theta Pi filed the action in the wrong division, Parks Miller argued, saying the civil court does not have jurisdiction over the motion.
Beta Theta Pi also failed to establish lawful possession of the the video equipment, Parks Miller claims, leading the commonwealth to challenged the fraternity’s claim of possession. Regardless of the original ownership, the brief said, the state is entitled to retain the original DVR boxes since the state and State College police have current ownership of the boxes as contraband.
Parks Miller went on to say Beta Theta Pi did not have grounds for requesting copies of footage captured by the equipment, saying that a “trial judge would be in the best position to decide if the defendants are entitled to such evidence as it is discretionary.”
The brief closed with a request that the court dismiss the motion for return of property as it is evidence in a criminal case where Beta Theta Pi is a defendant, adding that “the tapes will be analyzed for potential evidence of further criminal activity on the part of the petitioner and its co-defendants.”