Penn State

Beta Theta Pi petition to return evidence sealed by president judge

Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler has sealed all further documents in Beta Theta Pi’s petition to recover video surveillance footage of the events surrounding the injuries leading to Timothy Piazza’s February death.
Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler has sealed all further documents in Beta Theta Pi’s petition to recover video surveillance footage of the events surrounding the injuries leading to Timothy Piazza’s February death. Centre Daily Times, file

Will Beta Theta Pi’s Alpha Upsilon chapter recover video surveillance footage?

For the moment, there is no way to tell.

On Monday, Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler issued an order in the case.

“... The records in the above captioned matter shall remain strictly confidential and immune from public scrutiny,” Kistler wrote. “Thereby it is ordered, directed and decreed that all current and future filings in this action are and shall remain sealed until further order of court.”

The Penn State chapter of the fraternity is petitioning the court to order the return of videos and DVRs taken as part of the investigation into the death of Timothy Piazza, 19. Police said Piazza fell at a party on Feb. 2. Help was called about 12 hours later on Feb. 3. Piazza died at Hershey Medical Center on Feb. 4.

While Piazza’s death was ruled accidental by the Dauphin County Coroner, State College police opened an investigation into the circumstances. On Feb. 6, fraternity representatives signed receipts when police took evidence into custody, including two DVR boxes and video footage. In March, the Alpha Upsilon chapter filed its petition asking for the evidence to be returned.

Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest had previously scheduled an April 19 hearing in the case, but that hearing was rescheduled and court employees could not give a new date.

Kistler had not signed the previous order. However, he is the supervising judge in Centre County’s investigating grand jury.

Last week, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller issued a statement regarding other attorneys’ comments made to the press regarding a grand jury investigation into the case.

“Grand jury matters are secret for a reason, not the least of which is to protect innocent persons from being unfairly tarred and feathered on the court of public opinion, simply because they chose to cooperate in an investigatory matter. In the event that such matters occur in a grand jury proceeding, we will be asking the supervising judge to address them as they arise,” she said.

Four attorneys involved said they were not directed to maintain secrecy and that their roles did not usually require secrecy unless specifically ordered.

Beta Theta Pi has since been banned as a fraternity at Penn State.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

  Comments