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Arsonist to be released on bail

District attorney voices opposition to judge’s decision

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Hollidaysburg man incarcerated almost 19 years for setting multiple fires in Altoona will soon be released on unsecured bail pending his appeals before state Superior Court.

Blair County Judge Jolene G. Kopriva granted the request Wednesday to Christopher M. Rodland, 40, who was arrested in 1999 and convicted of arson and arson-related charges in two jury trials, then entered pleas in connection with additional fires.

Rodland said Wednesday that he was charged with setting 22 fires, then convicted or entered pleas to 15.

He has since raised multiple appeal issues, including ones up for review by the state court, which will decide if Rodland is entitled to a new trial or a new sentence.

While Rodland was initially sentenced to serve 25 years, four months to 76 years in prison as a result of his convictions and pleas, Kopriva ruled in June that a three- to six-year portion of the original sentence would be vacated based on a previously dismissed count of arson.

Before Kopriva granted bail pending appeal, Rodland said his earliest release date from state prison is Oct. 4, 2021, based on the revised sentence.

District Attorney Richard Consiglio said he was stunned by Kopriva’s decision to set Rodland’s bail at $5,000 unsecured.

“If you violate bail conditions, that means you’ll owe $5,000,” the judge advised Rodland.

Consiglio told Kopriva that Rodland’s bail pending appeal should be $1 million.

“He’s a career criminal … a danger to society,” Consiglio told the judge. “He had eight prior arrests before this series of events.”

Rodland took the witness stand on Wednesday and assured the judge that he has matured in prison and developed different coping skills to address the personal trauma that caused him to set fires.

“I’ve worked through that,” Rodland said.

Defense attorney Matthew Dombrosky said his client is entitled to bail pending appeal and appreciated the judge’s ruling.

“He was very pleased to see that all the efforts he’s made in prison to make himself a better person have paid off with this decision,” Dombrosky said.

When making her ruling, Kopriva referenced a 2015 psychiatric report finding Rodland with a “no risk” assessment.

She also mentioned Rodland’s prison record showing one infraction in almost 19 years.

Consiglio reminded her that Rodland has been in a “structured environment.”

The judge also took note of Rodland’s prison work history resulting in a $220 bank account. Kopriva described that amount as “pretty remarkable” in light of the 25-cents-an-hour pay.

Rodland also reported enrolling in several educational programs while in prison.

Dombrosky put Rodland’s mother, Karen Rodland of Hollidaysburg, on the witness stand to say that her son could reside at her apartment upon release.

Kopriva asked the mother what she would do if her son violates bail conditions by using alcohol or drugs. The mother said she would contact his probation officer.

Rodland will be required, as part of the bail conditions Kopriva set, to abstain from alcohol and drug use, to participate in any recommended mental health treatment, to report weekly to the county adult parole and probation office and to find a job.

The judge also advised Rodland that because he has been incarcerated for 19 years, he should find a counselor who can help him adjust to life outside prison.

“You’re going to have to work hard,” Kopriva said, with Rodland who shook his head in agreement. “It’s going to feel weird.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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