Beta Theta Pi would like its videos back, please.
In a motion submitted to Centre County Court of Common Pleas last week, the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of the fraternity sought to “compel the return of property.”
The property in question included two Speco Tech DVR boxes taken Feb. 6 from the fraternity house at 220 N. Burrowes St. on Penn State’s campus. Video footage was also taken.
State College Police Department search and seizure consent paperwork for the separate requests was signed by two different individuals.
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“The tapes were provided to the State College Police Department with the express understanding that the tapes would be immediately returned and that is the reason why such tapes were handed over to the police without a search warrant,” attorney Mark Bernlohr wrote in a letter to the police department, copied to Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, on March 6.
The boxes and videos were taken as part of the investigation into the death of Timothy Piazza, the Penn State student who died Feb. 4 after emergency personnel were called to the fraternity house on Feb. 3. Piazza suffered a fall down stairs at the house during a party on Feb. 2.
In the petition, Bernlohr says the material was to be returned after copies were made.
However, the consent forms signed at the time says only that the DVR boxes will be “returned when finished.” The video consent paperwork has no disclaimer about return.
“These officers are authorized by me to take from the aforementioned place or article being searched any letters, papers, materials, storage devices to include devices containing electronic data, digital images, text messages, logs or other digitally stored data and/or any property which is contraband or which may be evidence of a crime or believed relevant to a criminal investigation,” the form states.
Bernlohr’s letter said the situation has put the chapter in a difficult position.
“...Alpha Upsilon is in the unenviable position of attempting to defend itself from claims asserted by the Penn State University, the Beta Theta Pi General Fraternity, the media and others, without the benefit of having the opportunity to review the tapes...,” he wrote.
He also protested police showing the tapes to “various individuals and institutions without the consent of Alpha Upsilon.”