Attorney: Fine imposed on man convicted in Penn State hazing case was ‘excessive, irrational’ | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Attorney: Fine imposed on man convicted in Penn State hazing case was ‘excessive, irrational’

1626571_web1_AP19236636012040
AP
Braxton Becker, a member of Beta Theta Pi, leaves the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte after the preliminary arraignment on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

The former house manager of a Penn State fraternity where a pledge repeatedly fell during a night of drinking and later died filed an appeal Tuesday seeking to vacate his conviction and fine.

Braxton Becker, 23, of New York, was found guilty in May of one misdemeanor count of hindering apprehension, but was acquitted of one misdemeanor count each of evidence tampering and obstruction.

Becker was accused of deleting the footage to thwart the State College police investigation in the days after Timothy Piazza died from severe head and abdominal injuries. Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo has argued Becker was the “gatekeeper of important information.”

For each of the three charges filed by State College police, ex-borough police Detective David Scicchitano used identical language — “(Becker) deleted surveillance video of an incident knowing a police investigation was underway” — in the criminal complaint.

The state attorney general’s office was required to prove Becker tampered with the video as a predicate offense to the hindering charge because tampering is a statutory element of hindering, defense lawyer Karen Muir wrote.

“Because the jury found Mr. Becker not guilty of the predicate offense, Mr. Becker’s conviction for hindering cannot stand,” Muir wrote.

Both Muir and state attorney general’s office spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoads declined to comment, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.

Centre County Judge Brian Marshall sentenced Becker in August to two years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. The fine was the maximum allowed by law.

During the hearing, he said he imposed the fine “because of the necessary expenditure of public resources to overcome the actions that Mr. Becker took in committing this crime.”

The fine was “excessive, irrational and unreasonable,” Muir wrote. She argued Becker was the one who had to expend additional resources to contest the charges after the state attorney general’s office and State College police refiled charges against Becker three times.

“There was absolutely no testimony, victim impact statement or request for reimbursement for costs for the ‘public resources’ presented at trial or sentencing in the matter,” Muir wrote. “… It appears as though Mr. Becker was punished for exercising his Constitutional right to a trial, as the individuals who plead(ed) guilty did not receive the maximum fine.”

Becker was the first former Beta Theta Pi fraternity brother to be convicted by a jury on charges that were filed after Piazza’s death in February 2017.

Piazza consumed a large quantity of alcohol during a big acceptance ceremony at the fraternity. His night was captured on the house’s security camera system, but footage from the basement was not initially provided to State College police.

The video was discovered in July 2017 when Scicchitano was in the now-defunct fraternity house for an unrelated investigation and realized there were security camera angles he had not seen before.

Categories: News | Pennsylvania
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.