Judge reopens records of trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva will reopen the record in the Paul Aaron Ross murder case so the prosecution can more fully explain why Ross went on trial in 2005 despite defense objections that it needed more time to prepare.

According to the prosecution, Thomas M. Dickey of Altoona assured the court and prosecutors that if he were permitted to become Ross’ attorney, it would not interfere with the scheduled start of the trial. Dickey reportedly said his expert witnesses were prepared and ready to testify.

He then allegedly changed his mind and asked for a continuance of the case, which was denied by the judge.

Dickey went before the Pennsylvania Superior Court last year to argue for a new trial for Ross, who is serving a life sentence plus 24 to 48 years for the murder of Tina Miller, 26, of Hollidaysburg.

Her body was found on June 27, 2004, partially submerged in the lake at Canoe Creek State Park.

Dickey won a new trial for Ross based on the two arguments – that he did not have time to prepare his defense and that the judge permitted improper testimony, including statements from former girlfriends of Ross that he was abusive.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court ruling and keep Ross behind bars.

Consiglio in March charged that Dickey “misled” the Superior Court with his arguments for a new trial.

Dickey did not attend the March hearing, but he was represented by an associate, David J. Kaltenbaugh. After the hearing, Dickey said he never misled or lied to the Superior Court and said he is being used as a scapegoat by the prosecution because a new trial has been ordered.

Kopriva will hold a hearing on the matter on Monday afternoon.

At that time, Consiglio is expected to relate that Dickey “made promises” to Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul that his appearance as Ross’ counsel would not disrupt the already-established trial schedule and that the defense experts had sufficient time to prepare and had discussed their findings with attorney Dickey.

The case is unique, according to Kopriva, because there is no in-court record of Dickey’s supposed guarantees.

Blair County wants to provide testimony to supplement the record of the case by putting Paul on the stand.

Kaltenbaugh contended in March that it is too late in the process to supplement the record of the case.

But Kopriva concluded in a nine-page opinion released Monday, “The Commonwealth argues the record transmitted to the Superior Court does not truly reflect what transpired in the trial court and he [Consiglio] believes the [new evidence] might facilitate appellate review.”

She added, “The Commonwealth objects to any appellate court basing its decision on whether the defendant received a fair trial on untruths and misrepresentations. They seek to enlarge the record to include evidence of whether [Ross] had ample time to prepare experts for his capital homicide defense.”

Ross met Miller on the night of the murder at a Hollidaysburg bar. The two then went to a party and were last seen together at Canoe Creek State Park, near Ross’ family home, just hours before the young woman’s body was found.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.