by Geoff Rushton
Update: District Judge Allen Sinclair said a contempt hearing will be held for Bream on Aug. 30. This story will be updated further.
Attorneys representing former members of Beta Theta Pi charged in connection with the death of Timothy Piazza wanted Tim Bream in court this week to testify at a preliminary hearing.
Bream, however, didn’t show after a private investigator made numerous attempts to serve him a subpoena, and the defense wants the court to compel him to appear or be held in contempt.
Penn State football’s head athletic trainer and the former live-in adviser for the fraternity has been the focus of defense questioning on several occasions throughout the preliminary hearing, which entered its fifth day on Friday after beginning in June and continuing again in July and this week.
Bream was employed as an advisor by the fraternity chapter and separate from his university employment.
Attorneys for some of the 18 fraternity brothers in the case have sought to show that Bream, who has not been charged, had responsibility for the house and that he had to have known what was going on the night of Feb. 2 and early morning of Feb. 3, when there was an alcohol-fueled bid acceptance and social event that brought more than 100 people to the house. Piazza died on Feb. 4 from injuries suffered after alcohol-induced falls at the house
Earlier in the morning, attorney Karen Muir, representing defendant Braxton Becker, who is charged with tampering with evidence, raised an issue involving Bream that had been brought up earlier during the hearing in July.
A text message exchange between fraternity vice president Ed Gilmartin — one of the members who waived his hearing on a tampering with evidence charge — and brother Lars Kenyon showed Gilmartin suggesting that they delete GroupMe messages “so people don’t get screenshots or anything that gets leaked to media.”
“Tim’s idea as a precaution,” he concluded.
Det. David Scicchitano testified that Gilmartin told him “Tim” referred to Bream. In response to a question Scicchitano said “based on that text message” it would be fair to say Bream was directing the brothers on what to do.
On Thursday, two defense attorneys questioned Bream’s role. Evan Kelly, the attorney for Craig Heimer, suggested that Bream had personally approved the “gauntlet” — a series of drinking stations where Piazza and fellow pledges consumed beer, wine and vodka in rapid succession. Kelly also said that Bream had weekly meetings with fraternity officers to discuss events at the house.
After cross-examination of Scicchitano ended on Friday, attorney Leonard Ambrose, representing Joe Sala, said it was his intention to call Bream as a witness, but that an investigator was unable to serve Bream personally after several attempts and that he did not answer the papers left with staff at the Lasch Building and Penn State’s general counsel.
Ambrose called private investigator Jeffrey Johnson, a retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper. District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, who has objected to questioning about Bream throughout the hearing, objected to calling Bream or Johnson. She argued that the defense can’t use a preliminary hearing as an investigative tool and that Bream would not negate the defendants’ alleged culpability.
Ambrose, however, said that Bream’s role as live-in adviser and liaison to Penn State’s Interfraternity Council would negate “the element of recklessness as to extreme indifference to value of human life,” that some are charged with. If anything impermissible was occurring, Bream would have stopped it, Ambrose argued.
District Judge Allen Sinclair allowed Johnson to testify and he said that Bream was ultimately served through two sources at Penn State.
Johnson said that he first began to serve Bream in early July. He first attempted to go to Bream’s office at the Lasch Building, which was secured and he could not enter. He then found an residential address for Bream, where he met a woman who said she was his ex-wife and that Bream was not there.
After finding an address in Hilton Head, N.C., belonging to Bream, Johnson said he hired a private investigator there to serve him, but he was unable to.
In mid-July Johnson learned Bream had returned to Pennsylvania and attempted to contact him at Lasch. Johnson said administrative assistants there denied him access to the building, so he went to Penn State Police, which sent an officer to escort him to Bream’s office. Upon arrival, Johnson learned Bream was on vacation.
On July 24, Johnson said he was told Bream was at a retreat in Scranton with the team and would return on July 28. Johnson said Penn State Police told him they would no longer assist him.
After multiple phone calls to Lasch, Johnson said staff stopped answering when he called. So he called from another number and asked for Bream, giving a different purpose for his call. Johnson testified that a man identifying himself as Bream answered and Johnson explained he was trying to serve him a subpoena. Bream reportedly told Johnson he would meet him in the Lasch Building parking lot at a designated time, but did not come out after Johnson waited for an hour.
When Johnson went to Lasch on July 28, he met with an administrative assistant who he said refused to provide her name. He testified that she called police and her supervisor and he left the subpoena with her.
Johnson said he also went the the offices for the university’s general counsel where he explained he was looking for someone who could accept service. He testified that he was met by a woman named “Zahraa” who became agitated when he explained he was serving a subpoena for Tim Bream. He served the papers to her, and she allegedly called police and made a harassment complaint.
Parks Miller argued that the university does not represent Bream in this case and that his workplace in this case was not the Lasch Building. Ambrose and Johnson pointed to a Pennsylvania rule that subpoena’s can be served at the recipients’ regular place of employment or by an agent at their regular place of employment.
Sinclair recessed for lunch before making a decision.
If Bream is ordered to testify, the hearing, which will decide which charges against 18 former members and the fraternity chapter will be bound over for trial, could be continued again in September.