BROOKVILLE — The post-conviction appeal hearing for Robert G. Rega of Punxsutawney resumed Tuesday at the Jefferson County Courthouse, when Rega’s attorneys requested a continuance on his contention that he would have been entitled to some type of legal assistance from the Italian consulate in Philadelphia because he’s an Italian national.
In a conference call Tuesday, David Osborne, one of the attorneys representing Rega in his federal appeal of the penalty phase of his state appeal, asked for a continuance on an attempt to see if Rega was entitled to assistance from the Italian government.
Rega, now 44, was found guilty by a jury for killing Gateway Lodge night watchman Christopher Lauth at the lodge in Cook Forest in 2000. Rega was sentenced to death June 21, 2002.
Common Pleas Judge John H. Foradora said in June that Rega’s attorneys first requested a hearing regarding his status as an Italian national and what assistance he was entitled to from the Italian government pertaining to his legal representation during his state appeal.
During the hearing Tuesday, Osborne said he was requesting a continuance once again, since the attorneys have been waiting to receive word from the Italian consulate on Rega’s Italian citizenship, as well as what type of legal assistance he was entitled to from the consulate.
Osborne said he has been in touch with consulate officials in Rome, Italy, but still has not received a decision about what Rega may or may not be entitled to.
Foradora said it has been three months since Osborne first made his motion and did not want to see this drag on much longer.
“My fear is not that Rega is not entitled to that status, but to determine exactly what type of assistance the consulate could’ve provided for him during his first appeal,” he said.
Osborne said the consulate has been cooperative throughout his attempt to establish Rega’s status as an Italian national.
Citizenship was a minor point in his mind, Foradora said, adding that the defense must find someone to testify or speak on behalf of the Italian government on how that would’ve changed the outcome of Rega’s appeal.
Osborne said the Italian consulate has given every indication that it would cooperate with Rega’s appeal.
Foradora said he wasn’t going to give another lengthy continuance, however he would grant a continuance until Friday, Oct. 21.
After the Oct. 21 hearing, there will be no more continuances granted. If the Italian consulate is willing to help, it must provide someone to testify by that date, Foradora said, even if it’s via telephone.
Foradora said he believes Rega probably qualifies for assistance as an Italian national, but the question is what type of assistance would have been provided.
Following the Oct. 21 hearing to establish Rega’s heritage, Foradora said he would continue to look through all the evidence that has been presented in Rega’s federal appeal, and give his opinion as to whether or not the order for Rega to die by lethal injection should be vacated or not, due to ineffective counsel.
In June 2002, a jury convicted Rega in the December 2000 killing of Lauth. Rega, also a former night watchman at Gateway Lodge, conspired with others to steal a safe containing $20,000 at the lodge.
Rega shot Lauth at gunpoint while the victim was kneeling.
In addition to the death sentence, Foradora also sentenced Rega to life in prison without the possibility of parole for second-degree murder and 39 1/2- to 70 years for criminal conspiracy; robbery; burglary; theft by unlawful taking or disposition; aggravated assault; criminal mischief; unlawful restraint; and theft by receiving stolen property.
In July 2008, then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed a warrant for Rega’s Sept. 18, 2008, execution, which was postponed due to Rega’s federal appeal.
Foradora is hearing the appeal case.