Kenneth Piner requests new trial

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Kenneth Piner Sr. of Altoona isn’t scheduled to be sentenced for his role in a local drug ring for another nine days, but he already has filed a request for a new trial in Blair County Court.

Piner’s handwritten request, filed Tuesday in the Office of the Blair County Prothonotary, contends he was denied due process and that the prosecution withheld evidence that would have helped his defense during his trial.

Piner, 52, was represented by Altoona attorney R. Thomas Forr but has started working on his own to prepare a post-trial strategy.

In his petition, Piner focuses on police wiretaps that led to his conviction for 28 drug-related offenses.

He pointed out that police wired two confidential informants as well as recorded conversations that took place during drug transactions.

He pointed out that court permission is needed before police can use an informant to record conversations in a home. He said that the informants who recorded the conversations were not doing so voluntarily.

He alleged investigators offered a “carrot and a stick” to informants, meaning they faced long jail terms if they did not cooperate with police and lesser terms if they did.

Piner several times mentioned that police use of recordings and wiretaps was part of a “disingenuous scheme to perpetrate fraud on the court.”

The failure of investigators to disclose the details of their operation to the courts and the defense meant that evidence that could have been used by the defense was withheld.

Piner is asking the court to toss out his convictions and dismiss the charges against him.

The arrest of Kenneth Piner, his brother, Stephen, and others linked to a ring operating out of the former Corner Bar and Grille in Altoona stemmed from a complex investigation that started with drug buys from street-level dealers, then proceeded to police attempts to track phone calls and finally to obtaining court permission to tap phones and record thousands of conversations between the Piners and others.

The investigation uncovered a Baltimore-to-Altoona cocaine ring allegedly led by an inmate in a state correctional institution, Damion Floyd, who still remains to be tried.

Floyd, police said, used people on the outside to arrange large drug buys in Baltimore and transport the cocaine to Altoona for processing and sale.

Piner contended that while he dealt in small amounts of cocaine, he was not part of a ring that operated out of the Corner Bar.

Court records show Piner is to be sentenced June 14 for cocaine sales and also for being part of a corrupt organization and conspiracy to import kilos of cocaine to the Altoona area.