The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 12, 2013

Man convicted in DUI crash granted attorney for appeals

EBENSBURG — An East Taylor Township man convicted earlier this year of driving while intoxicated and causing a crash that killed his son was granted an attorney Thursday to represent him through his post-conviction appeals.

Brian Roles Sr., 38, testified via a video camera from Camp Hill that he has no income or property and is unable to pay the private attorney he retained to represent him in the appeal of his conviction and September sentencing.

Roles was convicted of homicide while DUI following the April 2012 crash on Route 271, William Penn Highway.

The crash killed Brian Roles Jr., who was 16 and a student at Conemaugh Valley High School.

The jury rejected a story by Roles Sr. that the younger Roles was behind the wheel when the pickup left the roadway while traveling north on a stretch of highway between Johnstown and Mundys Corner.

The truck ran up an embankment, struck a utility pole and rolled over. The younger Roles, who was not  wearing a seat belt, died of head and neck injuries.

In his weeklong trial, Roles Sr. told the jury that he had a seizure in Kernville and then woke up to find his son driving. He said he attempted to grab the wheel to avoid a crash.

The same story was told by a teenager who was a passenger in the back seat at the time of the crash. A day later, the teen told the court he was pressured by Roles Sr. to tell the story.

During his trial, Roles was represented by Cambria County Public Defender Ryan Gleason and Nicholas Banda, also of that office.

Following his sentencing to 81/2 to 17 years in state prison, Rolls hired attorney George Bills of Pittsburgh to file an appeal with the state Superior Court. The document was filed, but Roles was unable to pay the attorney.

Bills went to court asking to be removed from the case, and Creany said Thursday the Superior Court instructed him to determine if Roles was capable of representing himself.

Calling self-representation often an unwise decision, Creany asked Roles if he was aware of the expertise needed to handle the appeal and the expertise of the prosecution attorneys.

Roles said he understood what he is up against, quickly adding: “I can’t represent myself.”

Creany named Ebensburg attorney Gregory Neugebauer as Roles’ appeal counsel, an attorney, Creany said, who “appreciates and enjoys appeal work.”

Neugebauer will contact Roles and take over the appeal process while Bills seeks permission to withdraw from the case, Creany said.

Cambria County will pay for the trial transcript and any costs incurred in the appeal along with Neugebauer’s legal fees, Creany said.

Attorney Scott Lilly, head of the district attorneys appellate division, said the appeal filed by Bills presents three issues:

• That Roles was not prosecuted in a timely fashion.

• The weight of the evidence did not warrant the verdict.

• Statements made prior to trial should have been suppressed.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

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