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PSU student pleads guilty in anti-Semitic vandalism case

Video surveillance cameras near Beta Sigma Beta fraternity captured images of two men vandalizing the property in November.
Video surveillance cameras near Beta Sigma Beta fraternity captured images of two men vandalizing the property in November.

Hayden Jeffrey Grom, 19, said he didn’t know the impact swastikas would have on the Jewish brothers at Beta Sigma Beta fraternity.

The Penn State student from New Fairfield, Conn., told Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler on Thursday that he was sorry for his part in the November 2013 incident, blaming too little thought and too much alcohol.

“I take full responsibility. I had a drinking problem. I’m over it now,” Grom said in entering a guilty plea to charges of ethnic intimidation and criminal mischief.

Police say 13 vehicles, a Dumpster, a parking lot and a garage near the fraternity on Berry Alley were spray-painted with the Nazi symbol, sexual words and images, anti-Semitic language and the initials KKK.

According to his attorney, Matthew McClenahen, the incident was not motivated by religious or racial hatred but by retaliatory pranking among fraternities. Grom and co-defendant Eric Hyland were targeting Delta Sigma Phi, getting back at them for a perceived offense, McClenahen said.

He said Grom’s blood-alcohol level was estimated at .25 at the time of the incident and that he didn’t understand the meaning of what he was doing.

“He had no idea of the historical significance,” McClenahen said, claiming his client had little knowledge of World War II, its participants or its impact on the Jewish people at the time.

However, he told the judge, Grom has since been involved in counseling on racial sensitivity and understands the impact now.

Grom received two years probation for ethnic intimidation and criminal mischief. Arguments will be submitted by the parties on a provision of the plea agreement that stipulates Grom would pay back the $5,000 reward offered for information on the crimes.

McClenahen protested, saying that can’t be done under Pennsylvania law. Kistler imposed the sentence but said he would allow the two sides to argue that point.

Hyland is still awaiting trial on his case, having been granted a continuance Sept. 11.

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