Update, 3:40 p.m.: Joe Grace, spokesman for the Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement that “The Office of Attorney General will review Mr. Cantorna’s claims of conflicts and will make a determination of his request after careful analysis of the facts.”
Original story: Centre County District Attorney-elect, Bernie Cantorna, announced this morning he’s turning the Beta Theta Pi Case over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office to avoid a conflict of interest. Cantorna, who worked as a long-time public defender before winning the November election for DA, may have represented former Beta Theta Pi brothers or others related to the case at some point.
There are laws in place that govern the duties a public defender can take on if they assume the role of district attorney. Cantorna highlighted specifically in the release that the Rules of Professional Responsibility say a district attorney cannot act “as a prosecutor in a matter involving a former client.”
Cantorna said he also asked the Pennsylvania Bar Ethics Committee for advice. He decided to turn the case over to the Attorney General because of the counsel he provided for former members of the fraternity.
“I have been advised to ask the Attorney General to take over these cases. I have done that so these cases can move forward in an efficient, timely, and above bound matter,” Cantorna said in the release.
Outgoing DA Stacy Parks Miller advocated for maximum penalties for the former brothers she originally charged. However, none of the felonies were bound over after the preliminary hearings. Miller has since refiled the worst of the offenses, mainly the involuntary manslaughter charges.
The case is far from over, especially as new charges were filed last week when the FBI recovered video evidence from the basement of the fraternity house. Former brother Braxton Becker was charged with tampering with evidence, among other charges, for allegedly deleting the footage from the cameras that show just how much alcohol Piazza consumed the night before his death. Five additional former brothers were charged with involuntary manslaughter in light of the recovered evidence.