Crime

Parks Miller news release irks Beta Theta Pi defense attorneys

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller issued a news release Thursday regarding a Beta Theta Pi hearing as the hearing was in progress.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller issued a news release Thursday regarding a Beta Theta Pi hearing as the hearing was in progress. Centre Daily Times, file

A late morning news release from Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller was a point of contention among Beta Theta Pi defense attorneys arguing against charges being refiled against their clients.

A hearing was slated for 9 a.m. Thursday between prosecution and the attorneys to discuss motions made by the district attorney’s office to refile charges and have the case heard before a different magisterial judge. Arguments, however, took a turn at about 10 a.m. when a release detailing Parks Miller’s position on the refiled charges, new charges and motions to continue became available.

According to the release, in regards to the refiled charges, the prosecution simply needed to allege an error of law on behalf of the presiding magisterial judge to hear a refiling of charges.

Included in this motion to refile, the release said, was a motion to recuse District Judge Steven Lachman from hearing the refiled charges, saying Lachman refrained from proceeding on the new complaints over concern for the defendants, and refused to file all the appropriate charges.

Parks Miller claimed in the release that the court unilaterally set a date for the refiling hearing while she was already slated to be out of the state for required continuing legal education, saying she needed consecutive days of credit before Dec. 30 to maintain her law license.

Included with the release was an email sent by Parks Miller to President Judge Pamela Ruest’s secretary on Nov. 27 questioning rulings in favor of the defendants without consulting the prosecution.

“The commonwealth is entitled to and demands to be heard on motions affecting the outcome of this case, no matter how big or small,” the email read.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller introduced new charges against members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity after the recovery of basement surveillance footage inside the frat house during the night of frat pledge Timothy Piazza’s death. The paren

Parks Miller noted in the release that she sent a formal request to appear at Thursday’s hearing by telephone.

In court, attorney Frank Fina, representing Brendan Young, called the release an “emotive temper tantrum,” saying it was another example of the district attorney attempting to use outside influences in the courtroom by not putting the issue before the court and the defense.

Theodore Simon, representing Luke Visser, claimed the release was rife with inaccuracies, including times that it took for the court to respond to defendants’ motions. He said he was “shocked” when he was told Parks Miller wanted to appear via telephone for the hearing.

Andrew Shubin, representing Nicholas Kubera, said the release was further proof that refiling the charges against the defendants proves it was not in good faith on a prima facia level. He requested that the court issue an order to preserve any communication between Parks Miller and any judicial entity in the case and the media, calling it an “urgent” matter.

Rocco Cipparone, representing Michael Bonatucci, claimed there is no requirement for consecutive days of credit to maintain a license, noting that there are multiple seminars available locally for the district attorney to receive the necessary amount of credits. He also claimed that the hearing date for the “most important case in the office” was set some time ago, but Parks Miller chose to go out of state.

“If justice delayed is justice denied, she would not have waited 57 days to refile the charges,” he said.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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