ANALYSIS: Police and district attorney repeatedly ignore requests for comment and documentation
The primary suspect in the vandalism of a Black Lives Matter flag at Susquehanna University received a misdemeanor charge and was routed to an “accelerated rehabilitative” program, according to the county prosecutor.
Jack O’Brien is a student at Pennsylvania State University and tore down the flag after a night of drinking. Two other Susquehanna student were involved but not criminally charged.
“[Susquehanna} University president’s statement is accurate and the vandalism incident is not a hoax,” Heath Brosius told The College Fix via email. “The individual responsible was charged by the Selinsgrove Police with the crime of Institutional Vandalism of an Educational Facility (18 Pa.C.S.A. 3307(a)(3)) which is a Misdemeanor of the 2nd Degree in Pennsylvania.”
He did not provide any information on the two Susquehanna students involved in the case. Multiple requests for information were not answered.
“The case has moved to the Court of Common Pleas of Snyder County and the individual has been determined by my office to be eligible for our Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program as defined in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure 310 – 320,” Brosius said.
The university president condemned the vandalism and said it “is hurtful to everyone.” “Bigotry, racism, sexism, and acts of prejudice toward others based upon their religion, their gender identity, or that of those they choose to love do not belong here.”
While the March 2023 statement condemned the acts, it did not provide any facts related to the case beyond that it was vandalized on March 7 in the Degenstein Campus Center and an investigation is underway. However, a March 8 statement noted that “three suspects have been identified in conjunction.”
“The main suspect is not a member of the Susquehanna community, but two Susquehanna students will face appropriate action by the University,” President Jonathan Green wrote. No further details were provided.
The university created a new diversity task force as a result of the incident, according to local media.
Local police department sits on public records request for five months and counting
The Selinsgrove police department continues to refuse to turn over the police report for the incident.
Borough Manager Lauren Martz “deferred” to the police chief on March 17. “This incident is still open and pending so it is too soon to release any information responsibly at this time. School is on spring break so nothing will be moving forward until school resumes,” Chief Shanee Mitchell informed The Fix via email that same day.
“This is still an open and ongoing investigation. We cannot release until it is cleared,” Chief Mitchell wrote on April 20.
Another month passed without any information provided.
“I have not received any new information. I will reach out to the D.A. and the Solicitor,” Mitchell said on May 24.
The police chief did not respond to a June 22 request for comment and only responded on July 5 after another message from The Fix. “Unfortunately I have not been given any updated information on this. This may be partly due to the changes going on in the D.A.’s office,” Mitchell said. “My best advice would be for you to reach out to the D.A. and see if there is anything that they can tell you.”
“It’s unfortunate but these things do often take quite a while to conclude depending on how many cases are ahead of it and also depending on if the lawyers and court are ready to move forward,” he said. “Us as the police have no control over anything once we submit the case to the court.”
The university’s media relations team did not respond to a request for further information in the past three weeks.
Editor’s note: The article has been updated to include the name of the suspect.