Judge finds Dravosburg man guilty of homicide, heist
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman told Kenneth J. Konias Jr. on Tuesday that six days of testimony pointed to “only one possible verdict” in Konias' trial for murder and theft.
The judge found Konias guilty of criminal homicide, robbery and theft in connection with the deadly shooting of Michael R. Haines, 31, of East McKeesport and the theft of $3.2 million from an armored truck Konias and Haines were operating on Feb. 28, 2012.
Konias likely will receive the mandatory sentence of life in prison with no option of parole for the homicide charge. The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18.
The judge was dismissive of Konias' claim that he shot Haines in self-defense when Haines attacked him inside a Garda Cash Logistics truck.
According to the story Konias told FBI agents when he was arrested in Florida two months after the robbery, Haines provoked a scuffle by throwing a malfunctioning handheld scanner at him as he was driving. Konias, who did not testify but stood by his story during the trial through his attorney, said Haines pulled a gun on him and that he kicked the gun out of Haines' hand and shot Haines in the back of the head with his own service weapon as Haines went to pick up his gun.
“The scanner was a MacGuffin,” said Cashman, using a literary term referring to an object that moves a plot along but has no real importance. The judge said there was evidence that the scanner worked correctly everyplace the truck stopped that morning. He said the scanner would have been on the floor if it had been thrown, not lodged in its charger, as the device was when police found the truck with Haines' body still in it under the 31st Street Bridge in the Strip District.
The judge said Konias could have closed a sliding steel door inside the truck to separate himself in the driver's area from Haines, who was stationed in a midsection of the vehicle. Referring to testimony from investigators who said there was nothing inside the truck to suggest a fight had occurred, nor were there any injuries to Haines except a bullet in his head, the judge told Konias, “There was nothing messed up about that truck except Mr. Haines' blood, which was dripping out the door.”
Konias' calls to friends after the shooting inviting them to flee with him and the fact that he'd arrived at all of his normal stops early on the day of the shooting “all points to a plan,” the judge said.
Prosecutor Robert Schupansky earlier in the day said Konias was living out a fantasy when he robbed the truck and spent two months on the lam in Florida.
“The defendant was not happy with who he was,” Schupansky said. “He wanted to be a millionaire. He wanted to be somebody else.”
Schupansky said the fact that Konias never sought help for Haines in the aftermath of the shooting but bought a Rolex watch, went to strip clubs and associated with prostitutes while he was on the run did not support a claim of self-defense.
“This case is about selfishness and not self-defense,” Schupansky said.
Defense attorney Charles LoPresti argued in his closing that the prosecution started its case with a theory, then went to find evidence to support it. He said the commonwealth never adequately disproved the self-defense theory.
After the verdict, LoPresti said Konias' story never changed from the time he was arrested. LoPresti said his client believes he acted in self-defense.
LoPresti did acknowledge it was a hard case to argue.
“Sometimes you have to just sit there and take punches and hope there is some light in the case,” he said.
Members of the victim's family wept quietly in the courtroom when the verdict was handed down.
The family released a statement thanking agencies involved with the investigation and said friends and strangers have reached out to them and have even supported a memorial scholarship in Haines' name at Robert Morris University.
LoPresti said there has been no decision on whether Konias will appeal the case.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.