District Attorney in Tim Piazza case under fire from Beta Theta Pi fraternity brothers
‘My office is not in contempt of any orders.’
Following the investigation of Timothy Piazza’s hazing-related death, the former Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi and 18 of its members faced over 1,000 charges, including involuntary manslaughter, hazing and aggravated assault. However, it looks as though the case isn’t over yet. Last Friday, members of the former Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi filed a motion for the court to hold the Centre County District Attorney in contempt.
According to court documents, the fraternity claims DA Stacy Parks Miller is in “willful violation” of the court for refusing to follow orders to return collected evidence to the fraternity. Specifically, Beta Theta Pi petitioned for the return of two DVRs and the original video footage taken the night of Piazza’s death.
The battle for the surveillance footage began back in April, when Beta Theta Pi wanted the court to order and enforce its return. President Judge Thomas King Kistler instead moved to seal the evidence due to the ongoing investigation until further notice from the court.
On May 3, the court ordered Parks Miller to return a “a certified forensic copy of video footage stored on [the fraternity’s] equipment” to Beta Theta Pi. She did not comply with this order and was asked again to hand over the footage on May 10. She eventually gave up an external copy of the footage that the fraternity alleges was limited in its scope, believing there to be more video footage used in the investigation than what was given to them.
On the subject of returning the original surveillance equipment to Beta Theta Pi, Parks Miller said, “We were not going to do that any more than we would give a murder weapon back to the accused murderer as an investigation starts.”
The fraternity also requested in a separate motion for a bill of particulars that would include a “factual predicate for each and every count of each and every offense” of the fraternity chapter and the “specific acts, language or behavior claimed to constitute each element of each offense charged.”
This is not the first time in this case that Parks Miller has come under fire. A defense lawyer for Michael Bonatucci, one of the brothers charged with aggravated assault and involuntary manslaughter, claimed that “there is no indication in that very detailed presentment” that Bonatucci was involved in Timothy Piazza’s death. Bonatucci appears very little in the presentment and is shown in the footage as having given alcohol to minors that night, but not to Piazza.
Others have accused Parks Miller of using this case to her advantage as part of her campaign for re-election, citing alleged ethical offenses, such as setting up a fake Facebook account to get information on defendants.
Regarding the recent allegations, Parks Miller said in a statement, “My office is not in contempt of any orders. We were ordered to give the Corporations lawyer a copy of what we made. We did this.”