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Judge orders trial for Niskayuna man in Penn State hazing death case

Judge orders trial for Niskayuna man in Penn State hazing death case

Given another shot, prosecutors convince judge to send case on
Judge orders trial for Niskayuna man in Penn State hazing death case
Braxton Becker is seen in Bellefonte Pennsylvania, last year, when he appeared at a preliminary hearing.
Photographer: PHILLY.COM

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- The latest effort to prosecute a Niskayuna man accused of deleting crucial video evidence after the death of a Penn State fraternity pledge is headed to court, according to Pennsylvania media reports.

Braxton Becker, 22, learned this week that the Attorney General's office in Bellefonte had succeeded in convincing a judge -- who had previously tossed the case against Becker over concerns about how the camera system worked -- to send the case to trial, The Centre Daily Times wrote. Becker is accused of secretly deleting recordings made the night Timothy Piazza suffered fatal injuries in an alcohol-induced fall last year.

Three charges, all misdemeanors, will go forward: tampering with physical evidence, obstructing law enforcement and destroying evidence, the paper wrote. Becker served as the fraternity's house manager; he never faced hazing or other charges related to Piazza's death.

The latest attempt is the fourth for prosecutors to bring Becker to trial. Previous attempts ended in dismissals, The Daily Times wrote.

Centre Daily Times: Did he delete the video? Former Beta Theta Pi house manager bound over for trial, Nov. 7, 2018

The judge dismissed the third attempt in August, finding evidence insufficient to implicate Becker as the person who erased the data.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, however, got another chance to add to their pre-trial case. They called an expert on the camera system who testified Wednesday that no malfunction could have caused the system changes, and that the changes were made "in front of the unit," The Daily Times wrote.

Becker's attorney, Karen Muir, argued the new testimony changed little: "He's not the one that did the 'delete all,'" the paper quoted her as saying.

The judge, however, found the new testimony answered earlier questions, and he ordered the case held over for trial.


Prosecutors previously presented photos taken by investigators that showed Becker in front of the surveillance camera system console at the Beta Theta Phi house, his finger on the remote, according to an account from PennLive.com. Prosecutors argued the photo was taken at the same time the FBI said the video was deleted. Investigators later recovered the deleted video.

An investigator was at the house on Feb. 6, 2017, to get Becker's help to download the video -- two days after Piazza's death. The FBI determined someone intentionally deleted the video at 10:38 a.m. that day. The investigators took the photos of Becker at the exact minute he was helping the investigators, according to PennLive's account.

Muir countered that technical problems were the source of any missing or deleted video, and a technician had been at the house a month earlier, PennLive wrote.

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