JOSH SHAPIRO’S OFFICE SEES DEFEAT IN CRIMINAL COURTS, AS USUAL
Lachman issued his ruling on last week’s preliminary hearings today, as he promised that he would.
His second ruling on this case mirrored his first ruling, as this was the second go around with the preliminary hearings.
He set aside the ridiculously overblown charges like reckless endangerment, and stuck to mainly “furnishing” or “hazing-related” charges. Just because this case has been front page news, does not mean we need to start charging these brothers any differently.
- A magisterial district judge Monday threw out the most serious charges that had been filed against a second group of former Penn State fraternity brothers after the death of a pledge last year. Judge Steven Lachman dismissed all five counts of reckless endangerment, a second-degree misdemeanor, that had been filed against five defendants in connection with the death of Tim Piazza in February 2017. CITATION
Now the charges seem more reasonable, reasonable enough that some Defendants are ready to proceed to trial, and it finally seems that this stagnant case is moving properly along through the judiciary.
- Those defendants still will face charges of hazing, which is a third-degree misdemeanor, and alcohol violations, as will seven other defendants who underwent a group preliminary hearing last week. CITATION
The question I have for this dropped charge of “obstruction” relevant to the deletion of video is if that video were deleted before or after the service of the search warrant? Deletion of evidence after a search warrant is obstruction, but deleting that video prior to any law enforcement serving a search warrant is simply just deleting a video, video that was still at that point property of the fraternity.
Lachman also dropped all charges against a fraternity brother accused of deleting incriminating basement video images and scaled back the alcohol violations by dropping all of the third-degree misdemeanors (furnishing alcohol to minors) that prosecutors had filed. CITATION
THE ADDITIONAL CHARGES
Despite not charging the video deleting fraternity brother, Braxton Becker, with obstruction, Lachman accepted most of the newly filed charges that were brought on against more brothers by the recovery of the deleted video:
- Lachman decided which charges will go forward to trial against this batch of former members of the Beta Theta Pi house, who were charged in November, months after an original group of 18 students had been accused. The additional defendants were brought into the case after the FBI recovered “deleted” video images from the basement that showed additional alcohol-fueled activities on bid acceptance night. Most of the charges stemmed from providing drinks to pledges and Piazza in particular. CITATION
JOSH SHAPIRO’S OFFICE HAD PREVIOUSLY SCALED BACK THE CRAZIER CHARGES FILED BY PARKS MILLER IN THE WEEKS PRECEDING THIS LAST PRELIMINARY HEARING
The manslaughter charges, aggravated assault charges and reckless endangerment charges were clearly slung on with little substantiating precedent with legal rulings historically. Perhaps the reason this case was so strung up and strung out over such a long period of time, with two preliminary hearings, was that it was overcharged in the first place.
Shapiro attempted to take the middle ground, striking charges such as aggravated assault, and the Judge hit the rest, charging the Defendants appropriately and in line with how Centre County has always charged cases like this:
- Even before last week’s hearing, the case against this second batch of defendants already had been scaled back. Prosecutors from the attorney general’s office decided against proceeding with charges of aggravated assault, a felony, and involuntary manslaughter, a first-degree misdemeanor, that a prior Centre County district attorney had filed against five defendants in this batch of former frat brothers. Prosecutors said the evidence did not support those charges against defendants in this group, but they believed there was evidence to support reckless endangerment. Prosecutors alleged it was reckless to feed Piazza beers, wine and vodka to chug after they knew he had already underwent an alcohol-chugging obstacle course. CITATION
THE MOST SERIOUS REMAINING CHARGES FOR RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT ARE DROPPED.
Pursuant to PA code, the definition of reckless endangerment is as follows:
§ 2705. Recklessly endangering another person. A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
But how recklessly could one brother or the next be engaging in “conduct which place or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury”, if the the conduct involves the same activities they are engaging in themselves. In other words, everyone was drinking that night, and the Defendants were “recklessly endangering” themselves as much as they were recklessly endangering Timothy Piazza.
- Defense attorneys argued that their clients could not have foreseen Piazza’s injuries based on them handing him one or two drinks. In all, Piazza consumed 18 drinks within 82 minutes before falling down the stairs, suffering catastrophic injuries to his brain and spleen. Although attorneys debated the point in court last week, the judge did not make a distinction in his ruling for defendants who gave Piazza a drink after 9:53 p.m., when he was first visibly intoxicated, according to video images. The judge simply didn’t agree with the reckless endangerment charge for any of these defendants. CITATION
I’ve been saying it all along, this case was overcharged. It’s nice to see a Judge in place who can put the pressure of the media and political forces aside and charge fairly.
JOSH SHAPIRO WAS TOO COWARDLY TO SHOW UP IN COURT, BUT WANTED THE LAST WORD:
Josh Shapiro, somewhere in Harrisburg or Philadelphia, at a podium far far away, far removed from the actual proceedings had to get the last word in.
“We are in the process of reviewing the judge’s decision to determine next steps, and are pleased that 11 more defendants we charged will be headed to trial.” CITATION
First he wanted to point out that this massive defeat was actually a “win” in his book, and second he wanted to say that he was “reviewing the Judge’s decision to determine the next steps.” In other words, he has to consult with his donor Tom Kline to see how to most effectively proceed. Because this case is not about justice to either of these men. One is banking on a record-breaking settlement from Penn State that will set his retirement, and the other (Shapiro) is banking on the hope Kline will finance his 2020 gubernatorial campaign.
Motivations are purely selfish from all sides, thankfully we got some good Judges in Centre County who do mind the man behind the curtain. While Penn State might be an ATM machine for lawyers in this state with civil liability claims, Judge Lachman was unconcerned with the political repercussions or civil case, and focused on the matter at hand, which was: What does justice constitute for these defendants?
Caselaw does not support Shapiro or Parks Miller, Lachman made a fair and just ruling, based on case precedent and fair legal application of the laws presently on the books.