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Is it a crime to erase footage of a hazing fatal accident?

Moderator:  I see this trial as an important case.  Clearly, in previous deaths, perpetrators have gotten away with “cleaning up” a death site, thereby destroying evidence.

Excerpt:

The jury trial for Braxton Becker, a former member and the house manager of Penn State’s now defunct Beta Theta Pi fraternity, began Tuesday. It’s the first jury trial in the case related to the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza in 2017. Becker allegedly deleted security camera footage of the fraternity house basement.

Piazza suffered fatal injuries during the fraternity’s spring 2017 bid acceptance night. His death prompted Pennsylvania to impose stricter antihazing laws and the university to begin Greek life reform. More than two dozen former fraternity brothers have been implicated in both the criminal and civil cases related to Piazza’s death.

Citing the exchange of text and GroupMe messages among Becker and other former Beta Theta Pi brothers, prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s office want to prove that Becker tampered with evidence, obstructed justice and hindered apprehension.

“I can see if I can erase last night,” Becker wrote the day after Piazza’s fall down a flight of stairs, in a message read aloud at trial by Deputy Attorney General Megan Madaffari. Madaffari said Becker showed “willingness to delete the video” and left police investigating for months without knowing about the surveillance footage that was allegedly deleted.

Karen Muir, Becker’s defense attorney, reminded the jury that the burden to prove beyond reasonable doubt is on prosecutors and said they hadn’t met their burden.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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