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Charges Refiled Against Two Beta Theta Pi Brothers

Charges that were dismissed after a preliminary hearing in May have been refiled against two former members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

The charges against Braxton Becker and Joshua Kurczewski, stemming from the February 2017 death of fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza, were among 45 counts against 12 defendants dismissed by District Judge Steven Lachman. Those defendants were the second set of fraternity brothers charged, following the recovery of basement surveillance video footage.

Becker is accused of deleting that video footage. The house manager who was responsible for the video equipment, Becker agreed to make copies of the footage from the night of Piazza’s death for police.

Prosecutors said a photo taken by police showed Becker with his finger on a remote control button at the exact time FBI experts found a “clear all data” log on the video surveillance hard drive.

Det. Craig Ripka, however, testified under cross examination by Becker’s attorney, Karen Muir, that police and an IT specialist were in the room with Becker the entire time and that he did not see anything appear on screen indicating a command to clear data. He also said that at one point during the attempt to make copies the system crashed.

Earlier, Det. David Scicchitano testified about text messages between Becker and another fraternity member discussing deleting video after Piazza had been taken to the hospital, though the messages did not explicitly say that the deletion had occurred.

Becker is charged with tampering with evidence, obstructing administration of law and hindering apprehension/prosecution. Each count is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Kurczewski, meanwhile, was among five defendants at the May hearing accused of providing alcohol to Piazza prior to his head-first fall down the basement stairs, as well as to other pledges.

His attorney, Jeffrey Veitch, argued that Kurczewski provided alcohol purchased by someone else and at the direction of more senior fraternity members. Each of the attorneys for those accused of giving alcohol to Piazza argued their clients had minimal interaction with him and had no way of knowing his state of intoxication at the time.

The refiled charges against Kurczewski are recklessly endangering another person, a second degree misdemeanor, and furnishing alcohol to a minor and conspiracy to commit hazing, both third-degree misdemeanors.

Following the preliminary hearing in May, Kurczewski had held over for trial nine counts of hazing, seven counts of unlawful acts relative to liquor, one count of consumption of alcohol.

As of Monday afternoon, no other charges that were dismissed in May had yet been refiled. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, which took over the case in January, declined comment.

After three preliminary hearings in the case, 25 former fraternity brothers are still facing trial on a variety of charges.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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