Woman’s wheelchair was damaged after it was shoved down stairs at Sullivan’s in March. Former Lakers hockey player Briere, lacrosse athlete Carrozzi apologize for actions in court.

8 Tim Hahn
\@ Erie Times-News
Published 2:17 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2023

Sydney Benes, who lost her legs in an automobile accident in 2021, talked in an Erie courtroom on Tuesday about the embarrassment she had to deal with in March when she was carried downstairs to use the bathroom at Sullivan’s Pub & Eatery.

Then there was the humiliation of finding her wheelchair, which had been pushed from the top of the stairs, sitting damaged at the bottom of those stairs, she said.

Since the accident that led her to use a wheelchair, Benes said everything became a challenge for her. Damaging her chair took that little bit of control over her life that was left, she said.

The wheelchair-shoving incident was captured on video and went viral after it was posted on social media, drawing millions of viewers. It launched an Erie police investigation that led to the filing of criminal charges against two now former Mercyhurst University student- athletes.

The accused, 24-year-old Carson S. Briere and 22-year-old Patrick Carrozzi, appeared before Erie County Judge John J. Mead on Tuesday morning for hearings on their applications for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, a special program for first-time, nonviolent offenders. The program allows offenders to get probation and have their charges dismissed and their records expunged if they successfully complete it.

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office approved Briere’s and Carrozzi’s applications, and on Tuesday Mead signed off on them. Mead gave each 15 months on a second-degree misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

Briere, a former Mercyhurst hockey player, and Carrozzi, a former Mercyhurst lacrosse player, each apologized to Benes as they stood before Mead Tuesday morning.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Lightner told Mead at the start of Tuesday’s hearings that, while there are many evil people in the world, “these are not those type of kids.” He noted, however, that the community should expect better from people who will be future leaders.

Benes told Mead during her comments to the court that, growing up, her parents taught her to treat everyone with respect and kindness. But following her accident, she found out that not everyone feels the same way.

She said following the incident at Sullivan’s, she heard from hundreds of people with disabilities who shared their own stories of the struggles they endured.

“Disabled people don’t want special treatment or privileges. They just want to be treated like everyone else,” she said.

Briere’s lawyer, Chad Vilushis, told Mead that as soon as he met Briere, his client wanted to make Benes as whole as possible and provided funds that were passed along to the District Attorney’s Office to pay for the damages to Benes’ wheelchair.

Vilushis said Briere underwent counseling on his own and has volunteered with a hockey

club for disabled veterans.

Briere, the son of former NHL player and current Philadelphia Flyers general manager Daniel Briere, is planning to resume his hockey career in Europe next year, according to information presented in court Tuesday.

Carrozzi’s lawyer, Tim George, told Mead the incident at Sullivan’s was an isolated incident wholly out of character for his client. He said Carrozzi worked very hard at Mercyhurst and served many hours of community service to organizations supporting those with physical disabilities.

Contact Tim Hahn at thahn@timesnews.com. Follow him on X @ETNhahn.