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YOUNGSTOWN Beating case sent to court



Published: Thu, February 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two Sigma Phi fraternity brothers said one of the defendants has been falsely accused.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The cases against two YSU fraternity brothers accused of beating a YSU dorm resident during a January party at the frat house have been bound over to a Mahoning County grand jury.

Robert Householder, 25, of North Highland Avenue, Girard, and Sherard M. Scales, 23, a resident of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house on Indiana Avenue, are charged with felonious assault in the beating of Nicholas D. Branyan, 19, of Kilcawley Hall.

Branyan, a nonfraternity member, was found unconscious around 1 a.m. Jan. 26 in the back yard of the frat house.

Scales is accused of stomping on Branyan's head; Householder is accused of dropping a cinder block on Branyan's head and chest.

What witnesses said: In testimony during Scales' preliminary hearing Wednesday in Youngstown Municipal Court, two students testified that they saw Scales stomp on Branyan's head in the back yard.

Brian Joliet, 19, said he watched as Branyan was chased into a corner of the back yard, fell and was stomped on the head by Scales at least three times. He said he then saw Householder grab a cinder block, drop it on Branyan's head, then pick it up and drop it on his chest.

Joliet told Anthony Farris, assistant city prosecutor, that Branyan was bleeding from his ears and was unconscious as Joliet and a friend tied to revive him.

When Branyan came to, the two helped him walk. Branyan could not take two steps on his own without falling, Joliet testified.

Joliet said he had never seen Scales before that night. He identified Scales to police when officers came to the house and handcuffed him.

Luke Sturdevant, a member of the neighboring Sigma Chi house, said he saw Scales stomping on Branyan's face and Householder drop the cinder block on his face. He did not see Branyan get struck by the block a second time.

He said he had never met Scales or Householder but recognized them because he had seen both before at the Sigma Phi house.

What two others said: But two of Scales' fraternity brothers implicated another member of their fraternity in the attack.

Darren Helkowski, 21, a Sigma Phi Epsilon member, said he saw Branyan get stomped on and assaulted with the cinder block. But the assailant was another fraternity brother who is of Indian descent and has a dark complexion that is close to Scales', Helkowski told defense attorney Paul C. Conn.

Richard Bislich, 22, a Sigma Phi Epsilon vice president, implicated the same fraternity brother, who is also Bislich's housemate. He said he did not see Scales or Householder in the yard during the beating. He said he saw the other fraternity brother and an unidentified white man kick Branyan.

Neither Helkowski nor Bislich were questioned by police, both testified. They also did not tell police what they knew about Scales' innocence.

Branyan said the tussle began during a party at the fraternity house after he unknowingly danced with the girlfriend of a Sigma Phi Epsilon member. He said he was surrounded, beat up and chased out of the fraternity house into a corner of the back yard.

He testified that he remembers nothing from that point until he awoke in a bed at St. Elizabeth Health Center. He was released from the hospital that day and said he has recovered from his injuries, but suffers headaches since the attack.

Judge Robert A. Douglas found probable cause to bind Scales' case over. He also bound over Householder's case Wednesday after Householder appeared and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

viviano@vindy.com




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