On the first day of February, a 21-year-old man was innocently walking along North Earl Street at Lancaster Drive in Shippensburg Township. At about 1:30 a.m., two males, one black and one white, approached him. Moments later, he found himself in the fetal position, his cell phone and wallet stolen, glasses broken, teeth missing and face bruised.
According to subsequent charging documents filed by Trooper B.L. Boggess of the Pennsylvania State Police, the alleged attackers were 18-year-old freshmen Millersville football players Kenneth Brown and Connor Marsico. Brown has been charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment, criminal mischief, robbery, theft and conspiracy, while Marsico has been charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, harassment and conspiracy. Both were also jailed after being temporarily unable to post their bails.
In light of the incident, both are awaiting a preliminary hearing in Magisterial District courts and, as Millersville University’s Director of Communications Janet Kacskos said, going through the judicial process on campus to see whether or not the school’s Code of Conduct was broken. Also, both have been suspended indefinitely from the football team—a decision easy to make, but hard to swallow for Marauder football coach, Greg Breitbach.
“I was shocked,” said Breitbach upon hearing the news, who just wrapped up his first season with the team after the fall. “It’s an unfortunate incident and I feel bad for the people involved.”
The incident, explained in Boggess’ report, went like this: after being approached by the two men, the victim was asked for directions to Richard Avenue. Suddenly, he was punched in the face by the black male—allegedly, Brown—knocking him to the ground. Attempting to absorb the blows by taking up the fetal position, the victim was then subjected to a flurry of blows by the two men. Once it was finished, the man realized “that his phone was taken from him, along with a debit card, his Shippensburg University identification card, some gift cards and a small amount of currency had been taken from him.”
Once the victim regained himself and flagged down a Shippensburg University police officer, he was taken to Carlisle Regional medical Center and received three stitches near his right eye.
As university policemen handed the baton over to state policemen, the investigation gained traction.
Their first clue was a report of a suspicious vehicle, which was occupied by white and black males who had asked for directions that specifically avoided the Bard Apartments.
After two troopers made traffic stops that matched the descriptions of the suspicious vehicle that was coming from the Shippensburg area, the occupants were asked to come to the Carlisle station for questioning. In addition, a search was conducted after receiving reluctant consent from the driver of the vehicle—the trooper remembered Brown trying to persuade him not to allow the search.
The search was executed, and sure enough, both the wallet and cell phone were found buried beneath the front passenger’s seat. One was found wrapped up in a tan towel, the other in a Nike sweatshirt.
The driver was then interviewed by state troopers, which led him to divulge some grim details — the jump seemed to be a random attack, according to the driver.
“They indicated that they were going to beat him up,” the charging documents stated. However, the driver still stopped to let them out—not thinking that any violence would actually occur—and picked them up once the damage was done. The driver was supposedly told to escape after Brown mentioned how he “dropped the guy with a punch,” and Marsico admitted to kicking the victim while he was down.
Once the police had pulled the car over, Brown and Marsico were reported as fumbling ideas to get their story straight.
As Marsico and Brown were eventually pulled aside for interviewing, they had their chance to express their side of the story.
After initially denying any knowledge of the assault, Marsico had a change of heart and admitted being present during the attack, including seeing Brown punch the victim, but repudiated the allegation of him kicking the victim.
On the other hand, Brown remained staunch in his initial response and denied any involvement in such an attack.
Both Marsico and Brown were arraigned later that day and faced bails of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively. Because of their failure to post these numbers, they were confined in Cumberland County Prison. Brown was jailed for three days while Marsico was swiftly reprieved from captivity the same day, thanks to some vital connections.
Dauphin County’s District Attorney, Ed Marsico, had the displeasure of waking up to some unexpected news about his son that Saturday. This was the family’s statement following the arrests:
“We are shocked by the events that have been reported regarding some college students, which unfortunately included our son. It deeply saddens us to learn that someone was hurt. Our son has and will cooperate with authorities, and our role as parents is to continue to encourage him to do so. We expect this to be addressed as a matter of course within the criminal justice system and hope the personal aspects of this difficult situation remain a private family matter.”
The response was similar to Breitbach’s, who now faces the aftershock of this incident.
“It’s a disheartening scenario all around,” he said, noting the injuries suffered by the victim; furthermore, he touched on the overall impact on the rest of his team—and university.
“We do place a high value on academics, off-the-field behavior, interaction with the community,” said Breitbach. “We attempt to have those things shine through, and they were for a long time.”
The head coach lauded his team’s efforts during the fall semester, mentioning that they put in 700 hours of community service during the season alone.
But one instance like this can damage the reputation of the entire squad.
“Unfortunately, it’s a reflection on all of us, whether we like it or not,” Breitbach said. “All you can do is move forward.”
Trying his best to trudge past this bump in the road, Millersville’s head football coach has the job of reminding his crew of their duty to represent their university.
“All you can do is provide education, structure,” he said. “We did that in fall camp … we had team building functions; we talked about off-the-field behavior, representing our university and each other. Again, [Saturday] morning, we had another team meeting to go over policies.”
Additionally, Breitbach makes sure to instill humility and appreciation in his players.
“You have to uphold the standards, no matter how they are challenged, what sacrifices are,” the coach explained. “You’ve got to live by a code that is reflective of what Millersville University would want. And if we don’t do that, we don’t deserve to wear that uniform … that was my message to our team: emphasizing what our standards are … understanding that it’s a privilege, not a right, to be at Millersville playing football.”
With Breitbach being encumbered with the job of picking up the pieces and returning them to their proper places, the fate of Brown and Marsico still hang in the balance—not to mention, the future of the Marauders football team.
At the recent Marauder Football Banquet, held in the waning days of January, Brown was awarded with Rookie of the Year, thanks to his 15 tackles during his freshman-high 11 starts during the fall. But Breitbach says the possible loss of a key player hasn’t scratched the surface of his problems.
“We haven’t worried about that,” he said, mentioning the success of National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 5, where the Marauders plundered 26 high-school up-and-comers. “As much as you want to win games, that hasn’t been our focus by any stretch.”
The head coach isn’t the only one pushing aside football for more pressing matters. Brown and Marsico await a hearing in court, as well as a decision from the university on whether to apply disciplinary sanctions on the students, which range from a metaphorical slap on the wrist to expulsion, according to Millersville’s Student Code of Conduct.
As far as the judicial process goes, nobody interviewed was in the position to speak of the matter; however, in a response exclusive to The Snapper, Marsico’s attorney, Jerry Russo, had this to say:
“I represent Mr. Marsico in this matter, which is pending a preliminary hearing. We are concerned about the victim in this case and look forward to the facts of the case being presented during the legal process. At this time, that is all I am prepared to say on the record.”
As Russo said, the process is still ongoing, but for Breitbach, one uncomfortable truth will continue to linger: “Unfortunately, one instance defines you.”
For a copy of the state police charging documents, please see: http://www.scribd.com/doc/204559316/Marsico-charging-documents
For a copy of the Student Code of Conduct, please see: http://www.millersville.edu/judicialaffairs/files/Student%20Code%20of%20Conduct.pdf