Konias' lawyer says confinement harming his client
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A man accused of killing his fellow armored car driver will have better access to his attorney after filing a motion challenging the conditions of his confinement in the Allegheny County Jail.
The motion, which was withdrawn on Thursday after an attorney for the county reached concessions with defense attorney Charles LoPresti, alleged that Kenneth Konias was being purposely denied human contact since arriving at the jail.
The 22-year-old -- accused of killing Michael Haines in February and making off with $2.3 million -- is being held in administrative custody, or segregation.
He is kept in a full, glass-front cell for 23 hours a day, and receives one hour per day to exit the cell, shower or make phone calls.
"He is having no contact with any human beings other than an occasional correctional officer, and is only permitted limited, once per week, one-hour visitation at night between 8 and 9 p.m. with his family," Mr. LoPresti wrote in the motion.
Although his client was cleared by the Behavior Clinic as competent to stand trial, the lawyer continued, Mr. Konias is becoming despondent.
"His isolation, lack of exercise or movement and seclusion from everyone ... has led to the defendant falling into a morose, despondent, anxiety-ridden state of mind, which is, if not alleviated soon, to lead to his inability to assist counsel in important decision-making and the future resolution of his case."
Mr. LoPresti filed the motion in July, and it was scheduled to be heard by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman on Thursday.
However, Mr. LoPresti discussed the matter with assistant county solicitor Craig Maravich prior to the hearing and reached an agreement.
The jail will keep Mr. Konias in segregation, but he will be allowed to meet with his attorney in a private room, given writing materials to help work on his case and permitted to make phone calls to his lawyer during business hours.
Mr. LoPresti said he was initially told by jail officials that his client was being kept in segregation because it's a "high-profile" prosecution.
The defense attorney said he found that explanation untenable because there are many defendants facing trial in highly publicized homicide cases who are not kept out of general population.
Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli said his office has no input to where an inmate is housed at the jail.
"That's an internal security matter, and the discretion and authority for housing prisoners lies with the warden," he said. "He's best situated to make that judgment call."
As for the isolation -- even from those who deliver Mr. Konias' meals -- Mr. LoPresti said he was told that there is no specific order in place limiting the suspect's interaction with jail staff. Officials were to go back to the jail and ensure that to be the case.
"The proof will be in the pudding," Mr. LoPresti said. "As long as we're seeing him, and we can work as attorney-client, I think we'll be OK."
Mr. Konias was captured in Florida 55 days after the Feb. 28 slaying.
The district attorney's office announced in July it would not seek the death penalty.
A status conference in the case is scheduled for Dec. 4. Trial is scheduled for Jan. 7.
First Published September 24, 2012 12:00 am