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    Thursday, August 18, 2022

    UConn student admitted to pretrial diversion program in swastika incident

    A University of Connecticut student accused of drawing swastikas on buildings on campus has been granted admission to a pre-trial probationary program.

    Kristopher Pieper, 22, who lived in Enfield at the time of his arrest, was granted admission to the accelerated rehabilitation program Friday in Vernon Superior Court. If he successfully completes the program, the charges he is facing will be dropped.

    Judge Kathleen McNamara ordered Pieper to remain in the program for two years, during which time he will have to make a $500 donation to a synagogue, and avoid getting arrested again.

    "Any slip up at all and you'll be back," said McNamara, meaning he would have to face charges in court, which include intimidation due to bias and criminal mischief.

    Pieper's lawyer, Trent LaLima, attributed Pieper's behavior to substance abuse, alcohol, immaturity, and insensitivity.

    Since his arrest in the spring of 2021, Pieper has undergone mental health and substance abuse treatment, and meets with a counselor monthly, LaLima said. He added that he was confident Pieper would do well in the program.

    The charges against Pieper stem from an incident in October 2020, when a swastika was found drawn in the stairwell of a residence hall, and in March 2021, when swastikas were found painted on the side of a chemistry building and a retaining wall.

    The drawing on the chemistry building was directly across from the Trachten-Zachs Hillel House, a center for the Jewish community on campus.

    Police said they spoke with Pieper after the incident but he denied knowing anything about the drawing. However, police noted that his room was adjacent to the stairwell where the drawing was found.

    Following the second incident officers determined that Pieper was a suspect based on his location, which they obtained using his cellphone's connection to the university's wi-fi network, according to police.

    The network showed that Pieper's phone was connected via a router located in the chemistry building around 2:45 a.m. Additionally, a video camera in the area captured a person walking along the wall of the building around that same time.

    Police also obtained a warrant to seize Pieper's cellphone. A search of the phone turned up a message in which he admitted to drawing the swastika in the residence hall.

    When police interviewed Pieper about the accusations, he eventually admitted to drawing thew symbols, and said he did so to raise awareness about what he saw as problems with certain Orthodox Jewish traditions.

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