Zien Council is escorted from magisterial district court in Wilkes-Barre on Jan. 7, 2020.
                                 Times Leader file photo

Zien Council is escorted from magisterial district court in Wilkes-Barre on Jan. 7, 2020.

Times Leader file photo

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WILKES-BARRE — The same day Zien Nathaniel Council admitted to first-degree murder in the killing of a 26-year-old woman in Wilkes-Barre, he filed a motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea.

Council, 20, wrote a pro-se motion dated Aug. 6 when he returned to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility after he entered an unusual guilty plea to first-degree murder, which was accepted by Judge David W. Lupas.

Lupas sentenced Council to life in prison without parole.

Wilkes-Barre police charged Council with fatally shooting Brittney Reynolds inside her residence on Matson Avenue. Her body was found by a city police officer conducting a welfare check Dec. 20, 2019, three days after investigators believe she was killed.

In his pro-se motion, meaning he filed it without assistance of a lawyer, Council claims he was “forced into pleading out to natural life.”

Council heavily criticized his trial lawyers, public defenders Joseph Yeager and Thomas Cometa, stating they “abandoned all defenses in telling (Council) to take a plea for life and you won’t get the death penalty.”

Attorney Kendra Strobel formerly assisted in Council’s defense but resigned from the public defender’s office several weeks ago.

“(Council) is scare(d) of his own lawyers because they performed like prosecutors and (Council) felt compelled to do what the lawyers told him to do after learning that he was (expletive) as per his attorneys,” Council wrote in his pro-se motion.

Council was scheduled for a jury trial Aug. 9.

A review of Council’s court docket showed no filings by his defense lawyers leading up to the trial start date, with the last entry made by Lupas on March 25 scheduling Aug. 9 for jury selection.

Council, in his pro-se motion, referenced there being no “pretrial motions” filed on his behalf.

Several days after Council pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and filed his pro-se motion, Yeager filed a motion to appoint a conflict attorney due to a conflict of interest with the public defender’s office on Aug. 12.

President Judge Michael T. Vough on Aug. 13 granted Yeager’s motion and appointed Attorney Janan M.E. Tallo as Council’s newest attorney representing him from the county’s pool of conflict attorneys.

On Tuesday, Tallo filed a motion seeking a hearing on Council’s pro-se motion and restoration of his appellate rights.

A hearing had not been scheduled as of Wednesday.