A Westmoreland County judge on Tuesday ordered the former leader of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club to report to a Somerset County state prison in late July to resume serving an 80-month sentence for a drug conviction based on a 2011 raid of his Hempfield home.
Dennis “Rooster” Katona, 54, was scheduled to report to the Westmoreland County Prison on Friday, but he is recovering from heart surgery, according to defense attorney Paul Boas.
Katona did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing before Judge Tim Krieger. Boas said Katona needed additional time for recovery and rehabilitation and asked that his report date be pushed back until mid-August.
Boas said Katona is in poor health. In addition to the heart surgery, Katona has been diagnosed with leukemia, has diabetes and is morbidly obese.
“He’s not in good shape. He’s going to do the time, so what difference does it make when it starts?” Boas said.
Prosecutor Mark Serge said there is no reason for a long delay for Katona to return to prison, where he still has about 5 ½ months left to serve of a 40-to-80 month sentence before he is eligible for parole. The state’s Department of Corrections can adequately provide the medical care Katona needs, Serge said.
“Mr. Katona is a convicted man. He’s doing what he’s doing. He created a rival motorcycle gang. He has a lot of things going on. It’s not like he’s sitting at home tending to his wounds,” Serge said.
The judge ordered Katona to report directly to SCI-Laurel Highlands on July 30 instead of to the county jail, as is typically required before an inmate is transferred to the state prison system. Krieger said the procedural change will prevent Katona from having contact with the man police said shot his home last month and is charged with killing two others in Penn Township.
Victor Steban, 53, of North Huntingdon is being held at the county jail without bond on charges he shot and killed Jacob Erdeljac, 41, and Mara Casale, 27, on May 16. Police also charged Steban in connection with shooting at Katona’s home and two other residences, arson of his own home, the theft of a truck and weapons offenses — all within hours of the fatal shootings.
Prior to a court appearance in late May, Steban told reporters the motivation for his crime spree was “all about getting Rooster.”
Katona has been free since December 2016, when a state appeals court overturned his conviction on drug counts. According to court records, a police raid of his home in July 2011 found 84 grams of cocaine and nearly 100 grams of methamphetamine — with a combined street value of $20,000 — and $4,000 cash.
The state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court ruling and reinstated Katona’s conviction and sentence last October.