Penn State

Penn State student accused of spray-painting anti-Semitic messages at fraternity waives right to hearing

A Penn State student accused of spray painting anti-Semitic messages around a predominately Jewish fraternity will forgo his first chance to answer to the charges.

Eric Hyland, one of two students charged in the case, has waived his right to a preliminary hearing and now faces possible trial.

Hyland, 19, of Export, and Hayden Grom, 19, of New Fairfield, Conn., face ethnic intimidation charges after they allegedly admitted to vandalizing property near Beta Sigma Beta, a largely Jewish fraternity, in November.

Grom waived his right to a preliminary hearing in December.

The pair are accused of spray-painting swastikas, anti-Semitic slogans and other graffiti on a dozen vehicles, a trash bin and garage around the frat and another, Delta Sigma Phi, on the 400 and 500 blocks of Berry Alley.

The graffiti also consisted of sexual and graphic language, sexual images, the initials “KKK” and other scribbling.

Attorney Mark Bolkovac, of Indiana, Pa., who is representing Hyland, could not be reached for comment Monday.

State College attorney Matt McClenahen, who is representing Grom, said his client is remorseful. Grom is not anti-Semitic, McClenahen said, and had a poor understanding of how hurtful his actions would be to many.

“I’m going to be assigning him a list of books to read,” McLenahen said. “That’s part of the healing process. He needs to understand the significance of what he did and why people are so upset.”

Police deemed the incident a hate crime and began an intense search for two suspects who were captured on security camera footage, and who were later identified as Hyland and Grom. The Penn State Interfraternity Council and Beta Sigma Beta’s alumni association combined to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Someone did come forward with information, eventually leading to the arrest of Hyland and Grom in December.

Police wrote in a criminal complaint that both men confessed and were apologetic, with Hyland allegedly telling investigators it was the most regrettable decision he has made in his life.

The men admitted to drinking and being intoxicated when they caused the vandalism, police said.

Hyland and Grom were members of Acacia fraternity, but police said the investigation revealed the pair were acting alone and not under the direction of the group.

The men have since been expelled from Acacia, officials with the organization said.

Hyland and Grom also face a disciplinary hearing before the Office of Student Conduct.

In addition to a count of ethnic intimidation, Hyland and Grom face charges of criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. All of the charges are misdemeanors.