Bergna Seeks Release Pending Murder Conviction Appeal

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Peter Bergna is asking a judge to release him from prison pending an appeal of his conviction for killing his wife in a staged accident near Lake Tahoe.

The former Incline Village art appraiser was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the June 1, 1998 crash that killed his wife, 49-year-old Rinette-Riella Bergna.

The conviction is on appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Prosecutors maintain Bergna staged the crash that sent his Ford pickup truck over a steep cliff on Slide Mountain with his wife inside.

The truck plunged 700 feet. Bergna claimed he was thrown out the window as the truck went over the cliff.

"He really wants to stand in there toe-to-toe and fight the charges," said Richard Cornell, a lawyer who is handling Bergna's appeal.

In court documents, Cornell said Bergna would put up his mother's home in Saratoga, Calif., as assurance he would not flee while the appeal is pending.

Chief Deputy District Attorney David Clifton said the defense motion should be denied.

"Our position is that Bergna's risk of flight increased significantly upon conviction for first-degree murder," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"This was a calculated, cold-hearted, callous and pre-planned murder of an innocent, helpless, loving wife who was still in the prime of her life," Clifton said.

A hearing on the bail request is scheduled Oct. 21 before Washoe District Judge Brent Adams.