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Blair County DA sets retirement

Prosecutor says death of Passarello had him ‘take stock’

Mirror photo by Greg Bock Blair County Judge Wade A. Kagarise talks with District Attorney Richard Consiglio on Wednesday after Consiglio announced he will retire April 1.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County’s longtime top prosecutor will retire April 1.

Surrounded by his staff, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio told a room filled with family, friends and colleagues on Wednesday that after weeks of consideration, he had decided to cut his third term short and hand over the reins to First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks.

“I’ve been here about 50 years,” Consiglio said. “that’s long enough for anybody.”

Consiglio spent most of the 20-minute press conference talking about other people, only saying about the reasons for his retirement that he has been “taking stock lately” and cited family and other personal reasons as the driving force behind the decision, one he stressed didn’t happen overnight.

“I really thought I was in a little bit better shape when I decided to run this last time — although my wife was ready to kill me, but I defied her and ran anyway” Consiglio joked before explaining he ran for a third term in 2017 because he believed there was a need to maintain consistency in the office.

“The truth is, I’m 75 years old; and I’m not really getting any younger; and I’m not getting any healthier,” Consiglio said, with a laugh. He added that when Altoona defense attorney Steven Passarello died Oct. 13, “I really started to take stock.”

Consiglio spent most of the press conference thanking his family and praising not only his staff, but everyone from the courthouse stenographers and staff of the prothonotary’s office to the sheriff’s office and the judges who sit on the bench in courtrooms where he’s worked all these years.

His staff, he said, makes him look good. Consiglio noted his office manager and personal assistant Jill Claycomb “is fiercely loyal to me” and that he’s always looked at the men and women who work in the office more as friends than employees.

Consiglio elicited laughs from the room throughout the announcement as he ran down a list of people who he wanted to thank, including Judge Daniel J. Milliron. Consiglio explained that Judge Milliron has been his best friend and how every year they meet up for lunch to celebrate their birthdays that are just two days apart.

It would be the people he will miss most when he steps aside, Consiglio said.

Consiglio also thanked the police officers in Blair County, those involved with Operation Our Town, his predecessor Dave Gorman, the county’s drug task force and two of his longtime former colleagues in the District Attorney’s Office — Judge Wade A. Kagarise and Judge Jackie Bernard.

Kagarise worked with Consiglio in the DA’s Office for about 15 years, half of that time serving alongside him as an assistant prosecutor and half as Consiglio’s chief deputy. The two also shared an office in private practice for five years, and Kagarise said he not only considers Consiglio a colleague but a friend and a great person.

“I think the world of him,” Kagarise said. “I think he’s one of the most dedicated prosecutors and dedicated public servants I’ve ever worked with.”

The judge said there is probably no one in the legal system who has earned retirement more than Consiglio.

“We’ll all miss him around, but he’s certainly earned it,” Kagarise said.

By law, as first assistant district attorney, Weeks will assume the office for the remainder of Consiglio’s term once he retires.

“This guy is unbelievable,” Consiglio said of the 40-year-old Weeks, who first came to Blair County as a specially designated drug prosecutor in 2007 after working as a law clerk for a Lawrence County judge for two years after law school. Weeks has supervised and prosecuted more than 3,000 drug investigations during his tenure as drug prosecutor between 2007 and 2017, and since 2018 he has prosecuted myriad cases that include sex crimes, homicides, assaults and child abuse as first assistant district attorney.

Consiglio said he feels “real good” about Weeks taking over the office and added, “He is, I think, the epitome of what a district attorney should be.”

Weeks said it has been an honor to work with Consiglio, as well as his predecessors in the No. 2 spot in the office — Kagarise and Bernard — since Blair County took a chance on him and offered him a job back in 2007.

For now, Weeks said he’s been too focused on several upcoming trials, including the drug trial of Damon “Fat Cat” Devine that starts Monday, to think too much about Consiglio’s April retirement.

Judge Bernard worked with Consiglio as a prosecutor for more than 20 years, first as a fellow assistant district attorney and finally as consiglio’s first assistant district attorney before she was elected to the bench in 2017. She said Consiglio will be remembered as one of the great prosecutors in Blair County, along with former district attorneys Amos Davis and William Haberstroh.

“Rich just had a desire to do the right thing for the right reasons, and I think that’s what his legacy will be,” Bernard said.

The judge pointed out that Consiglio developed a reputation in the region for handling homicide cases, particularly death penalty cases, and that he genuinely has a desire to help victims of crime.

“He really does believe in the work of justice and he talks about the victims, and I think his real heart was in that work,” Bernard said. “He has a really tough exterior, but his true good work was what he could do for victims in the courtroom.”

When he retires April 1, Consiglio will have served 30 years as a prosecutor in Blair County, with 15 years of that as district attorney. Before that, Consiglio, who has worked as an attorney for 48 years, served as the county’s first public defender and as a divorce master.

Consiglio said Wednesday he’s never kept track as far as how many times he’s won or lost in the courtroom and scoffed at the idea, saying instead he always looked at it as “doing what is good for the victims.

“Any case where I’ve gotten justice for a victim or helped out — that’s my proudest case,” Consiglio said.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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