Crime

Penn State employee eyed as witness in Beta Theta Pi preliminary hearing

A Penn State assistant athletic director will be called for a contempt hearing after failing to appear as a witness during the ongoing Beta Theta Pi preliminary hearing Friday at the Centre County Courthouse.

Tim Bream reportedly acted as a live-in adviser for the fraternity house in February during the bid acceptance event on Feb. 2 that led to the death of 19-year-old Penn State student Timothy Piazza. Bream has repeatedly been mentioned throughout the five-day preliminary hearing for 19 parties charged in Piazza’s death.

Several defense attorneys have questioned his role in the event and the fraternity as a whole, but he has not been charged by the commonwealth.

In what was later described as a “cover up” by attorney Leonard Ambrose, text message evidence appears to show Bream advising fraternity members to delete text evidence of the evening in question.

“This isn’t a hide-and-seek-type thing,” Ambrose said in a news conference after the hearing on Friday. “If you can defeat the process by just moving around, then a citizen has no right to a subpoena. And that’s what we’re seeking to enforce, and we’re very thankful the court is enforcing that right.”

Attorney Karen Muir, who represents house manager Braxton Becker, raised the role of Bream, referencing a message sent between Becker and Ed Gilmartin implying that “Tim” advised them to get rid of group messages.

Scicchitano testified that Bream was a police contact during the investigation, but did not consider him head of the house.

The Centre Daily Times in March obtained emails purportedly sent by Bream to 13 people directing them to participate in meetings with police.

“I am reaching out to each one of you. Detective (Keith) Robb ... would like all of you to come to the police station tomorrow Tuesday 2/14, before 4:30 in the afternoon. You are not in trouble. This has to do with the investigation,” the email, sent at 6:11 p.m. on Feb. 13, reads.

A follow-up a minute later assured the recipients that “it will not take very long.”

When District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller stated she had no further witnesses for the case, Ambrose announced his wish to call Bream to the stand, acknowledging that Bream was not in the courtroom Friday. Instead, Philipsburg-based private investigator Jeffrey Johnson took the stand.

Johnson, a former state trooper, testified to the numerous times since June he attempted to serve Bream with a subpoena to appear in court. He testified that he spoke with an individual who identified himself as Bream on the phone who agreed to meet but never showed up.

Ultimately, Johnson said he served the subpoena to an unnamed administrative assistant who was “in charge of the Lasch Building,” where Bream works, and a Penn State attorney.

Ambrose requested that a court order be issued requiring Bream to appear as a witness or be held in contempt.

Parks Miller argued that neither of the individuals served constituted an applicable person to serve in Bream’s absence, saying she had spoken with Bream’s attorney, Matt Dinunzio, who reportedly denied his client had been avoiding the subpoena.

Ambrose argued that the service had been proper, requesting a contempt hearing from District Judge Allen Sinclair. Sinclair subsequently set a contempt hearing for Aug. 30. At that time, he said, Bream will have a chance to show why he shouldn’t be held in contempt.

Ambrose said the ultimate goal would be to get Bream on the stand for questioning, saying “his name runs from the beginning to the end in all these proceedings.”

He described Bream as the “captain of the ship,” and the older, responsible figure the fraternity members looked to.

Parks Miller said at the press conference that if Bream had been expected to appear at Friday’s hearing, attempts should have been made to serve his attorney rather than the people who were reportedly served. She reported that Bream’s attorney said had there been successful service, he would have filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

“In this case, there’s a dispute whether there was service at all,” Parks Miller said, “and that will be between Mr. Bream’s attorney and the attorney who believes he had proper service.”

Two additional days have also been scheduled to continue the preliminary hearing, as Sinclair blocked off Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for final arguments for all attorneys.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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