Former Fraternity Brother Alleged To Have Deleted Footage In Hazing Death Case Will Go To Trial

Nov 7, 2018

Another former Beta Theta Pi fraternity member is going to trial in the case related to the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza. Braxton Becker, the house manager of the now-banned Beta Theta Pi, will go to trial facing three charges of tampering with evidence, obstruction and hindering apprehension, for allegedly deleting security camera footage of the house basement.

Becker was identified as the “sole operator” of the fraternity house’s surveillance system in previous hearings. The office of Attorney General alleged that Becker, after learning that Piazza was injured and sent to the hospital after bid acceptance night in February 2017, deleted the security videos of the basement, where Piazza stayed for an extended period of time following his fall down the stairs.

According to messages obtained by the prosecution, Becker told some of the brothers that the obstacle course was recorded, and said, “I could see if I could erase last night.” Prosecutors said that proved he intended to delete the footage in anticipation of a police investigation.

Judge Carmine Prestia previously dismissed all three charges. In his ruling in August, he wrote, “The evidence is insufficient to point directly to the defendant's having been the person who initiated any erasure of data. The systems were known to have problems, some cameras were not working and the LAN indication on the log indicates possible remote access to the devices.”

In response, prosecutors brought a new witness to the stand on Wednesday. Yolanda Herrera, the technical support manager for the surveillance system manufacturer, Speco, testified that the DVR units in the fraternity house hadn’t been accessed remotely, and that log entries would not be a result of technological interference.

Defense attorney Karen Muir argued that prosecutors did not establish that Becker intentionally deleted information to hide from police investigation. She said Becker was cooperative with police, and “nothing has changed.”

Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari said, from the multiple messages sent from Becker, it was clear that he had intended to erase the data. State College Police Detective David Scicchitano also testified that the system problems did not concern DVR unit 2 - the one where the alleged deletion happened.

Judge Prestia agreed that his previous questions were addressed, before announcing that Becker would have all three misdemeanor charges bound over for trial.

Piazza died in February 2017. An anti-hazing bill named after him was signed into law in Pennsylvania, and the trials of the former fraternity brothers being charged will take place next spring.