Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition is for first-time offenders accused of nonviolent crimes. ARD defendants get probation, can get charges dismissed, records expunged. No guilty pleas required.

2 Ed Palattella
| Erie Times-News
Published 5:10 a.m. ET July 25, 2023

The reaction to the wheelchair-pushing incident at an Erie bar was swift. A video of the March incident went viral on social media moments after the video was posted on social media, attracting millions of viewers worldwide.

The criminal case over the episode is on course to move more slowly.

The two former Mercyhurst University student-athletes charged with pushing an unoccupied wheelchair down the stairs have applied for admission into a special program for first-time offenders accused of nonviolent crimes.

The process for deciding entry into the program, Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, can take months.

Court records show Carson Briere, the former Mercyhurst hockey player charged in the incident — he is the son of former NHL player Daniel Briere — has applied for ARD. It allows offenders to get probation and get their charges dismissed and their records expunged if they successfully complete the program. Completion of ARD does not require a guilty plea.

The other defendant, Patrick Carrozzi, a former Mercyhurst lacrosse player, also applied for ARD, according to court records.

Briere, 23, of Philadelphia, applied for ARD on June 30. Carrozzi, 22, of Victor, New York, southeast of Rochester, applied on June 15.

How does Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition work?

ARD, is a statewide program, in which the district attorney in each county decides whether to grant an application for ARD. A Common Pleas Court judge then signs off on admission into the program. The prosecution typically asks for records and other information in evaluating an ARD application. A defendant refused for ARD can appeal to Common Pleas Court, though such appeals are rare.

Erie County Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Lightner, a top aide to District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz, has been handling the case. Lightner confirmed that the District Attorney’s Office had received the applications, and he said Briere has arranged to pay all of the restitution related to the damaged wheelchair and other costs.

Lightner declined further comment.

Briere’s lawyer, Chad Vilushis, of Erie, declined to comment. Carrozzi’s lawyer, Tim George, also of Erie, declined to comment.

What are charges against Briere, co-defendant?

Briere and Carrozzi are both charged with the second-degree misdemeanors of criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and the summary offense of disorderly conduct. They waived all the charges to court at their preliminary hearings on May 22 and are free as they await prosecution.

The Erie police charged the two after after a video showed Briere pushing a double amputee’s empty wheelchair down a flight of stairs at Sullivan’s, a bar at East Fourth and French streets, shortly before 11:40 p.m. on March 11.

Carson Briere and his father, named general manager the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers in the spring, apologized in statements issued after the incident.

Mercyhurst, a 3,000-student Roman Catholic school in Erie, dismissed Briere from the men’s hockey team, and he later entered the transfer portal for NCAA athletes. He was a junior when he was charged and is no longer at the school, according to court records.
Carrozzi was a senior when he was charged. He graduated.

The wheelchair belonged to Sydney Benes, 22, an Erie resident who lost both her legs in an automobile accident in Butler County in 2021. She had been using her wheelchair at a packed upstairs room at Sullivan’s when she left it at the landing at the top of the stairs to use the bathroom downstairs. Other patrons had helped her get downstairs.

Contact Ed Palattella at epalattella@timesnews.com. Follow him on
Twitter @ETNpalattella.