Piner, Feathers spar during break
HOLLIDAYSBURG – Kenneth J. Piner Sr., 52, and Randy Feathers, 54, both grew up in Altoona.
They knew each other more than 30 years ago, and according to Feathers, the two used to play sports together. He said they even boxed together.
They had a good relationship, Feathers said, but in a Blair County Court room Thursday, Feathers, a veteran police officer, and Piner, a man with a criminal past, verbally confronted each other.
Feathers said Piner “called me an SOB and asked me how my mother was.” Feathers said that comment angered him.
As Sheriffs’ deputies directed Piner out of the courtroom, Feathers said, “You’re a class guy Kenny.”
No one was sure who made the first comment to cause the clash.
Feathers said he didn’t address Piner initially, and Piner’s attorney R. Thomas Forr Jr. would not talk about what happened.
Even Piner’s mother wouldn’t discuss the incident, but when her son was brought back to the courtroom after the break she bawled him out. Piner smiled and told her he was sorry.
When asked by the Mirror what happened, Piner said, “I just didn’t like being lied on.”
He was referring to testimony Feathers had given just before the break in which he told a Blair County jury about a meeting he had with Piner on Oct. 3, 2011, in a Bedford County parking lot.
Feathers, now a member of the Pennsylvania Board of Parole and Probation, was then regional director for the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation.
In that position, Feathers, also a former Altoona police officer, had oversight of drug investigations spanning 15 counties, including the ongoing investigation into a ring that was allegedly bringing kilos of cocaine from Baltimore to Altoona.
It was called “Operation Last Call,” and investigators were seeking information as to who was running the organization and the source city for the drugs.
Piner is on trial before Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron, and the testimony this week showed that he was arrested in September 2011 while returning from a trip to Florida where he had visited a girlfriend. When in Florida he allegedly purchased cocaine for sale in Altoona.
At the time, Piner was unaware police had been listening to his phone conversations and suspected he was returning with cocaine. Piner was stopped and arrested as he entered Pennsylvania.
Police confiscated drugs and money. During the next week, Piner allegedly dedicated himself to re-establishing his bankroll and cocaine supply.
Again, police were listening, and when they realized that he was back on his business feet, the drug investigators asked State Police Trooper Craig Grassmyer to visit Piner and to tell him Feathers wanted to meet.
Feathers testified that he and Piner met in a Bedford parking lot for about 20 minutes.
He said Piner told him there was an individual named Benny bringing kilos of cocaine from Baltimore. Piner said he was able to buy up to 18 ounces of cocaine from one of Benny’s guys, “Shawn” at the Corner Bar and Grille in Altoona.
Feathers said Piner told him about Brian “Bubba” Stroh, the bar owner.
Forr, when he had a chance to question Feathers, found out Piner didn’t know the last names of Benny and Shawn.
Police identified them as Damion Floyd of Baltimore and Jermaine Samuel of Altoona, respectively.
A tap was placed on Samuel’s phone, and investigators were able to determine the specifics of the drug operation.
The group at the Corner Bar paid about $14,000 per half-kilo and made frequent trips to Baltimore, where one of Floyd’s childhood friends, Rodney “Rocco” Williams, allegedly supplied the cocaine.
Samuel was convicted in January for his part in Operation Last Call and will be sentenced April 12.
Thursday was the seventh day of testimony in Piner’s case.
The trial is expected to go into next week, but Milliron told the jurors Thursday that, with respect to the prosecution’s case, “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Police broke up the ring on the night on Nov. 3, 2011, and the early morning of Nov. 4, 2011, when they intercepted the car carrying the 365 grams of cocaine to Altoona, and conducted raids at the Corner Bar, and at the homes of Kenneth Piner, his brother, Stephen Piner, Floyd’s girlfriend, Natasha Miller, and Samuel and his wife, Lieesha.
Kenneth Piner contends he was not part of the group but is arguing that he was simply a dealer who sold small amounts of cocaine.
During his cross examination Forr had asked Feathers if, at the end of the meeting with Piner, he had told him that police would “get in touch” with him.
“You didn’t get in touch with him, did you?” Forr asked Feathers.
That led to objections from prosecution attorneys Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman and Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks.
After conferring with the judge, the question went unanswered.
After Milliron declared a recess and Feathers was approached by a group of police officers wondering why he was barred from answering the question, the confrontation with Piner occurred.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.