The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 2, 2013

Defense says jury verdict was inconsistent

EBENSBURG — A man convicted two months ago of stealing nearly $9,000 in cash from a Westmont home argued through his attorney Tuesday that the jury took pity on the victim while at the same time disbelieving testimony that the defendant broke into the home.

Public Defender Patricia Moore argued to Judge Patrick Kiniry that the jury was inconsistent in the February conviction of James Douglas Brages, 39.

“The jury disregarded (a witness’) testimony because they found Mr. Brages not guilty of entering the house and trespassing on the property,” Moore told the court.

She is asking Kiniry to grant Brages a new trial.

The jury convicted Brages of theft by unlawful taking, theft by receiving stolen property and possessing instruments of crime in the June 5 burglary of a home in the 1100 block of Edgehill Drive.

Jurors acquitted Brages of burglary and criminal trespass.

Last month Kiniry sentenced Brages to four to eight years in state prison, a sentence that reflects his past criminal record, which includes six burglaries and three thefts.

Brages, a Connecticut native who said he was in the area waiting for work on a school in Armagh, was riding his bicycle in the area of the Inclined Plane, not far from the crime scene, on the day of the burglary.

He was reported to West Hills Regional Police as a suspicious subject by at least one resident.

When police stopped Brages, they found more than $8,900 cash and some rolled coins on him.

The amounts were similar to what was reported missing from the Edgehill Drive home.

Brages was wearing a backpack containing tools that he said were used in the roofing business but also could be used to gain entry to buildings, Assistant District Attorney Joseph R. Green told the judge.

Kiniry said he would rule on the request for a new trial in timely fashion.

A ruling is also expected on a request by the district attorney’s office to return the money to the victim.

The money could be photographed and the photos used as evidence if a new trial is granted, Green said.

The victim also would be notified that if Brages would be found innocent in a second trial, he would have to return the money.

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