Crime

Did he delete the video? Former Beta Theta Pi house manager bound over for trial

Former Beta Theta Pi house manager Braxton Becker, right, arrived at the Centre County Courthouse on Aug. 21 for the first day of the fourth preliminary hearing related to Timothy Piazza’s death.
Former Beta Theta Pi house manager Braxton Becker, right, arrived at the Centre County Courthouse on Aug. 21 for the first day of the fourth preliminary hearing related to Timothy Piazza’s death. Centre Daily Times, file

The former Beta Theta Pi house manager was bound over for trial after the attorney general’s office filed charges a fourth time to address concerns of the judge who previously dismissed them.

Braxton Becker, a 22-year-old from Niskayuna, New York, is accused of intentionally deleting video from the fraternity’s basement after State College police began investigating the death of Timothy Piazza.

In his August ruling, District Judge Carmine Prestia Jr. dismissed the charges for a third time because he said the systems were known to have problems, some cameras were not working and the camera log indicated possible remote access by someone other than Becker.

“The evidence is insufficient to point directly to the defendant as having been the person who initiated any erasure of data,” Prestia said.

The AG’s office then went to Speco Technologies expert Yolanda Herrera, who testified Wednesday about the DVR boxes and the surveillance system used in the fraternity.

Herrera testified the changes to the DVR were made “in front of the unit” and could not have been done by anyone else. She also testified the log indicating the change could not have been caused by a malfunction or other technological interference.

Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari also asked Herrera about the “Clear All Data” entry on the log. Herrera testified the user would have received a prompt asking if they were sure they wanted to follow through with the deletion.

State College police detective David Scicchitano also testified Becker said, “I could see if I could erase last night” in a GroupMe message to his fellow fraternity brothers.

The testimony didn’t sway Becker’s attorney Karen Muir, who said, “Frankly, not much has changed. He is not the one that did the ‘delete all.’ ”

Madaffari disagreed and said the specific DVR box in question was operational and State College police took a picture of Becker in front of the machine at the exact time of the alleged deletion.

“The new evidence has answered my questions earlier,” Prestia said.

Becker was bound over for trial on one misdemeanor count of tampering with evidence, one misdemeanor count of obstructing law enforcement and one misdemeanor count of destroying evidence.

Despite the gag order initially issued by Judge Jonathan Grine, Piazza family attorney Tom Kline said Jim and Evelyn Piazza were pleased with the AG’s persistence and the “accumulation of incriminating evidence.”

Citing the gag order, Muir did not comment.

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