Two Penn State students who had been charged with felony aggravated assault in connection with an alleged beating of another student will now only face misdemeanor simple assault charges. In dismissing the aggravated assault charges, the judge agreed with the students' criminal defense attorneys' argument that the incident was the product of a party that had simply gotten out of hand.
According to court documents, the incident took place in March at an off-campus party in Altoona, where about 50 people had gathered to celebrate one of the defendants' birthdays. Witness accounts of the night vary wildly, but it was reported that the two defendants kicked and punched the purported victim until she became unconscious. Police were told by witnesses that between four and seven women had perpetrated the assault, but the defendants were the only two that could be positively identified.
There were several other inconsistencies in the reporting of the incident. For example, two witnesses stated that the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to one of the defendants prior to the attack, while two others stated that the song was not sung at the party.
These details (or, more specifically, the lack thereof) led the defense attorneys to argue that the incident was merely a "catfight turned melee" that did not rise to the level of a felony assault. The judge agreed, stating that the defendants' actions did not have a "reckless and extreme indifference to the value of human life," which is required for a charge of aggravated assault. As such, he ruled, simple assault was the appropriate charge.
Source: The Altoona Mirror, "Sorority sisters' felony charges dropped," Greg Bock, April 13, 2012
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