Preliminary hearing for ambush suspect rescheduled

AP News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2014 7:14 PM

MILFORD, Pa. (AP) — A preliminary hearing for the man charged in the fatal ambush of a Pennsylvania State Police trooper was rescheduled Friday after one of his lawyers withdrew from the case.

A judge granted a defense request to move Eric Frein's hearing to Jan. 5. It had been scheduled for Tuesday. The judge will decide at the hearing whether Frein should stand trial in the Sept. 12 slaying of Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding of a second trooper.

Defense attorney Michael Weinstein asked for the postponement after his co-counsel, Robert Bernathy, withdrew from the case, citing potential "professional and personal conflicts of interest" and his responsibilities as Pike County's chief public defender. Weinstein said a new lawyer will need time to get up to speed.

The Pike County prosecutor opposed the delay, saying Weinstein had been on the case since shortly after Frein's arrest. District Attorney Ray Tonkin also noted that a witness from Louisiana was set to appear Tuesday.

Frein, 31, is charged with firing on the Blooming Grove barracks, killing Dickson and seriously wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. Frein led police on a 48-day manhunt after the attack in the Pocono Mountains.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Bernathy couldn't be reached at his office after hours Friday to answer questions about his withdrawal.

"I'm really going to miss him. He's a very fine lawyer and really important to our team," Weinstein said.

Weinstein has petitioned to have another lawyer, William Ruzzo, added to the defense team.