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Father maintains Brasno's innocence

The father of Jason Brasno '98 said yesterday that his son is innocent of the charges levelled against him in connection with a firecracker that went off in a packed Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania last week.

"All I know is, he didn't do it," said Andy Brasno of his son, who is charged with a total of three felonies and two misdemeanors.

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The elder Brasno did say, however, that a Princeton undergraduate had thrown the firecracker. Though he said he knew the identity of the student, he declined to give the name.

Andy Brasno added that his son will plead not guilty at his arraignment next week.

In the meantime, Jason Brasno is scheduled to appear in front of a Philadelphia Municipal Court judge this morning for a preliminary hearing on charges that he threw the firecracker.

District attorney's case

In the hearing, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office will outline its case against Brasno and Brasno's attorney will have a chance to respond to the charges, said Bill Davol, spokesman for the district attorney's office.

"All you have to do is convince the judge that you didn't grab someone off the street," Davol said.

The charges against Brasno stem from an incident at the Palestra last Tuesday in which a firecracker exploded in midair with 17:07 left to play in the second half of the Princeton-Pennsylvania basketball game. Brasno spent two nights in a Philadelphia jail before being released on bond last Thursday.

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Late last week, charges against Brasno were reduced slightly with some of the more serious charges dropped and less serious charges added, Davol said. He explained that such a change is fairly common.

According to Davol, the next step in the judicial process will be an arraignment, which will be held in about five days and will involve Brasno entering a plea.

University investigation

Meanwhile, the University is conducting its own investigation into the incident. Sgt. Kenneth Samuels said that Public Safety had already turned over the bulk of the results of its inquiry to Marianne Waterbury, assistant dean of student life, and that the investigation was expected to end yesterday. Though Samuels would not say who was being investigated, he did say that Public Safety's efforts centered around "one or two students."

Samuels added that it is now up to Waterbury, who administers disciplinary matters for the University, to determine what action, if any, should be taken.

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Despite the University's own investigation, Waterbury noted that the majority of the information on this incident will be coming, at least initially, from the University of Pennsylvania.

"If it's something that happened elsewhere, it's their responsibility to conduct the preliminary investigation and then provide us with information," Waterbury said.

Waterbury explained, however, that the University's disciplinary procedures are independent of criminal cases. "I'm very uncomfortable with our making assumptions before we have information that justifies the arrest of one of our students," Waterbury said.

Waterbury said the charges against Brasno are the most serious she can recall against an undergraduate during her four years handling University discipline.

The charges against Brasno are arson, a felony; reckless endangerment, a felony; causing or risking a catastrophe, a felony; possession of an instrument of crime, a misdemeanor; and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.

Brasno's attorney, Richard Brown, declined to comment on the case yesterday, and Brasno could not be reached for comment.

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