Consiglio: Dickey misled court

HOLLIDAYSBURG -Pennsylvania Superior Court judges didn’t have the full facts when they ordered a new trial for Paul Aaron Ross, who is serving life for the 2004 killing of Tina S. Miller, Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio argued Friday.

Consiglio charged in a hearing before Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva on Friday that Ross’ attorney, Thomas M. Dickey of Altoona, made misleading statements to the appeals court that resulted in a May 2011 order granting Ross a new trial.

Dickey, who was attending a seminar in Pittsburgh Friday, said by phone, “I never lied to the court, ever.”

Ross, 40, formerly of Hollidaysburg, was convicted in 2005 of killing Miller, 26, of Hollidaysburg after a night of partying. Her body was found the morning of June 27, 2004, partially submerged in the lake at Canoe Creek State Park.

Sara Lee Funke of Allentown, who performed the autopsy, ruled Miller died from a combination of drowning and strangulation.

In appealing Ross’ conviction, Dickey told the appeals court that he was not given time to prepare his defense or to interview expert witnesses.

Consiglio repeatedly said that Dickey “didn’t tell the truth” about his alleged lack of preparation time.

The prosecution wants Kopriva to reopen the trial record so it can present letters Dickey wrote that would show he was ready to go to trial.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court ordered a new trial for Ross in May 2011, and late last year, a nine-judge panel upheld the decision by a 5-4 vote.

Consiglio is asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overrule the Superior Court and uphold Ross’ first-degree murder conviction.

Dickey said the prosecution previously had the opportunity to make a record contesting his contention he didn’t have proper time to prepare for trial.

He said the prosecution is trying to save face and shift the blame for a possible new trial to him.

“They make me look like a scapegoat,” he said.

Dickey said the higher courts of Pennsylvania make decisions based on an official record.

“It doesn’t exist if it’s not on the record,” he said, interpreting how the courts look at the situation.

Consiglio is arguing that the prosecution wasn’t aware until after the trial that Dickey would attempt to get a new trial based on lack of preparation time. The district attorney wants Kopriva to hold a hearing to make a more complete record of what took place. He said court rules permit documents to be entered into a case if they aid the court in determining the truth of what occurred.

Dickey said he takes offense at the argument that he misstated facts to the appeals court, and he emphasized that Consiglio was not the prosecutor in the Ross case and therefore would not have a good grasp of what occurred.

The case was tried by then District Attorney Dave Gorman and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul.

Consiglio on Friday cited a couple of examples of Dickey’s alleged misstatements to Superior Court. One was that the defense did not have a DNA expert.

The district attorney said a DNA expert was appointed for the defense but was not used during the trial because there was no DNA evidence collected by police.

Another example was that Dickey told the Superior Court he didn’t have time to confer with a defense criminologist, Larry Dehus of Butler, Ohio.

Consiglio said a letter prepared by Dickey proves that statement to be inaccurate.

The defense was represented at the hearing Friday by a member of Dickey’s law firm, David J. Kaltenbaugh, who contended the letters and testimony Consiglio now wants to enter into the record were never mentioned before and therefore cannot properly become part of the record now.

The Superior Court has ruled that Ross is entitled to a new trial, not only because of Dickey’s alleged lack of preparation but also because the court allowed former Ross’ girlfriends to testify how he mistreated them during their relationships.

The alleged “bad acts” testimony involving the girlfriends was not mentioned Friday.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.