EBENSBURG, Pa. – The trial for Brian Bradley Giles, whom is charged with murdering his wife and burying her remains in a wooded area of Johnstown, has run into a hitch days before the scheduled date for jury selection.
An issue was identified in the case’s discovery process: Giles’ public defender for the past year has a conflict of interest in the case.
Public defender David Raho’s firm also represents a person or corporation related to a witness in the case, Cambria County Judge Tamara Bernstein said.
Giles was escorted in handcuffs Wednesday to the Cambria County Courthouse, where Bernstein appointed new representation for him.
Bernstein said Raho’s conflict of interest was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Ethics Council, and that conflict is imputed to all attorneys of the Cambria Public Defender office because they are viewed as one firm, Bernstein said.
Bernstein appointed Ebensburg attorney Timothy Burns as Giles’ new lawyer. She said the appointment of a second attorney in addition to Burns will follow at a later date.
As a result of the change to Giles’ legal representation, the jury selection scheduled for Oct. 12 with trial to follow through Oct. 20 has also changed.
A status conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 24 to decide a new trial date, Bernstein said.
Giles is charged with killing Nancy Giles, 40, who went missing from their Franklin Street apartment in October 2018. Her skeletal remains, buried about two feet deep along a trail on the Inclined Plane hillside near Roosevelt Boulevard above downtown Johnstown, were found in 2019 by a man using a metal detector.
Giles was jailed on charges last May and has continued to be jailed without bond in Cambria County Prison since a preliminary hearing last September.
Giles, who maintains his innocence, reacted in the courtroom Wednesday to the change in representation that would further increase his time in jail awaiting trial.
“Am I going to get a chance to meet them (the new attorneys)? They won’t screw me over, right?” he said.
Bernstein said Burns is an experienced defense attorney in homicide cases and assured Giles that she did not want to leave a gap his representation. She said his new attorneys would have ample time to review the case.
“I shouldn’t have to sit in jail over all this time, and I’m innocent,” he said.
Bernstein said he indeed is presumed innocent until proven guilty, which is why the appointment of attorneys was necessary.
Giles continued on, announcing his disapproval of the prosecutor in the case, referring to past interactions with Assistant District Attorney Jessica Aurandt.
“I don’t like her either,” he said.
Before allowing Giles to continue, Bernstein warned Giles that anything he said could be used against him in court. He acknowledged that.
“Anywho, me and the DA… I told her if I get new counsel, I should get a new DA, too,” he said.
Giles’ criminal record prior to the homicide charge in 2022 shows he’d recently been prosecuted by the Cambria County District Attorney’s office for charges including harassment – subjecting another to physical contact – in 2019, for which he was found guilty; terroristic threats in 2020, to which he entered a “nolo contendre” plea; and he also entered guilty pleas to harassment and terroristic threats in 2021.
Aurandt said she is continuing to prepare for the trial and will work with Giles’ new attorneys.
“My interaction with Mr. Giles has always been professional in nature, and I am committed to continuing the prosecution of this case with integrity,” she said in an interview after Giles’ courtroom remarks.
At the courtoom on Wednesday, Giles also asked about the trial date.
That will be decided Oct. 24, Bernstein said.
“I’m sitting in jail for nothing I’ve done,” he said.
Giles’ former attorney, Raho, who was seated beside Giles on Wednesday attempted to explain the situation to him, but Giles snapped back.
“You aren’t my attorney anymore,” he said.
Bernstein cut Giles off.
“No, but I am your judge,” she said.
She reiterated the Oct. 24 status conference, instructed the guards to escort Giles back to his holding cell and adjourned the meeting.
Russ O’Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.
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