Wheelchair users know that in order to live a life of relative freedom, they sometimes need to abandon the chairs they otherwise rely on. For example, they may choose to patronize an establishment with restrooms located near a flight of stairs—necessitating assistance to use those restrooms and leaving their expensive adaptive equipment unattended.
An Erie, PA, woman named Sydney Benes learned the dangers of doing just this the hard way in an incident that later went viral.
What Happened to Benes's Wheelchair
A Twitter video brought the crime to light. In the March 11 surveillance video posted by Julia Zukowski—a bartender at Sullivan's Pub & Eatery in Erie and a friend of Benes—two men can be seen fooling around with a wheelchair at the top of a staircase, eventually pushing it down the stairs.
The two were identified as Mercyhurst University student-athletes Carson Brière, 23, a junior hockey player at Mercyhurst, and Patrick Carrozzi, 21, a member of the college's lacrosse team.
Brière is the son of former NHL star and current Flyers interim GM Daniel Brière. In 2019, he was dismissed from the hockey team at Arizona State University for what the school described as “a violation of team rules.”
The wheelchair sustained moderate damage. After the Twitter video went viral, a GoFundMe campaign, established to fund a new chair, raised over $8,000. Erie resident Benes, 22, initially refused the money, but later accepted it after making it clear that she would use it to repair her wheelchair and donate the remainder to the disabled community.
Benes has used a wheelchair since 2021, when she had her legs amputated after sustaining serious injuries in a Butler County automobile accident.
The Criminal Charges
Both student-athletes were dismissed from their respective teams. The management of Sullivan's turned over the video evidence to the Erie police department, which charged both men with second-degree criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.
The maximum sentence for a second-degree misdemeanor charge is up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, those convicted of similar charges often are sentenced only to probation, especially if they are first-time offenders with no prior criminal record.
Brière and Carrozzi are scheduled to be arraigned at a preliminary hearing before Erie 1st Ward District Judge Sue Mack, on May 22, according to Mack's office.
The Sobering Lesson
Brière issued an apology, ascribing his actions to a “serious lack of judgment” and saying that he was deeply sorry.
There is no denying that these two men acted immaturely and disrespectfully, with no concern for the wheelchair user. That said, to err is human. If you have made an error that has ended in criminal charges, call
Criminal Defense Attorney Joseph D. Lento. He and his Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm understand that even the best of us sometimes do stupid, irresponsible things—and that we don't necessarily have to pay dearly for those actions.