Today was the day a radio personality and station owner in Southwestern Pennsylvania known locally as “The Commander” was to be sentenced on felony rape charges.
That’s not happening, however. Late last week this individual, who is attempting to transfer control of the Class A FM to his daughter, filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in order to tweak it and resubmit it, with a slightly different admission of guilt.
Meanwhile, the man at the center of it all — Roger Wahl — is still on the air, to the incredulity of local listeners.
According to attorney Susan Williams, who is representing the plaintiff in the case, Wahl seeks to remove his guilty plea for the account of Invasion of Privacy.
This, she explains, is being done for one specific reason: A guilty plea would require Wahl to register as a Megan’s Law offender in the State of Pennsylvania. This is a sex offender list, and would put the wheels in motion on a license revocation hearing for his WQZS-FM 93.3 in Meyersdale, Pa., a Classic Hits station covering a swath of land known for Shanskville — the site where Flight 93 crashed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001.
With the motion to withdraw filed with the court, that staved off sentencing scheduled for Sept. 21.
And, it sets up a new hearing in Somerset County Court scheduled for Monday, Nov. 16 at 9am.
WQZS boasts a signal that reaches into western Maryland and even portions of West Virginia. The radio station is owned by Wahl‘s Target Broadcasting Inc., and its future hinges on both the court and the Federal Communications Commission.
Williams, the plaintiff’s attorney, says that Wahl still intends to plead guilty to rape solicitation and identity theft. This alone could thwart a June 2020 transfer of control filing with the FCC that sought permission to transfer WQZS to his daughter, Wendy Sipple, for a mere $10.
Even if Wahl were to avoid getting placed on Megan’s List, his days as a licensee are likely numbered. Further, the transfer of WQZS to Sipple, was killed one week after Wahl’s Form 314 filing was made, on the grounds that guilty pleas making him a felon upon sentencing would make such a transfer non-permissible under FCC rules.
The invasion of privacy count adjustment, therefore, appears to be a move designed to benefit Wahl as an individual and not to save him from surrendering WQZS.
With sentencing in November, a license revocation hearing in front of a FCC Administrative Law Judge could be seen soon after.
Retired Foster Garvey of counsel Erwin Krasnow predicted in a September 2019 interview with RBR+TVBR that WQZS’s future is indeed in doubt. Krasnow and Jacksonville-based attorney John Wells King have been prolific contributors to RBR+TVBR over the years on ways a licensee could lose their license.
Krasnow and King identified eight ways for a broadcast station to lose its license:
- molestation of children
- drug trafficking
- lying and cheating
- racist actions
- lack of integrity
- not minding the store
- being oblivious to FCC deadlines
Identity theft and rape solicitation can easily be tied to one of the above qualifications.
Wahl was arrested Sept. 7, 2019, by Pennsylvania State Police on those charges, plus the now-reconsidered invasion of privacy count.
Wahl is accused of attempting to solicit men to engage in unwanted sexual acts with a woman he reportedly impersonated through the creation of a phony online dating profile.
It began, according to State Police, with Wahl hiding a trail camera inside the 62-year-old woman’s house several years ago. Images from the camera were allegedly used by Wahl to lure men into her home, with Wahl making the arrangements.
In a release distributed to local media by Trooper John Wogan, Wahl encountered a man who traveled to the woman’s home on August 30, and solicited him to rape the woman. “(Wahl) indicated that other individuals would potentially be solicited to do the same acts with him,” Wogan said. “The victim was unaware of these activities and had no involvement in this scheme.”
The charges brought against him include “criminal use of a communication facility,” as Wahl’s home and radio station address are shown on official police records as identical. Troopers said Wahl, from this address, used a computer to conduct the illicit online communications via the dating website.
To exacerbate matters, Wahl is also being charged with tampering with physical evidence. Trooper Wogan says pictures were deleted from Wahl’s phone as were text communication from the dating site, apparently after Wahl discovered State Police were investigating.
Even with all of the negative press and the sentencing hearing originally scheduled for today, Williams tells RBR+TVBR Wahl remains on the air at WQZS. A Facebook page is still active, although updated only occasionally.
In an interview with RBR+TVBR, the plaintiff in the case, who RBR+TVBR will not identify by name, says Wahl was on the air a day after he was placed in jail in September 2019.
Today, even with advertiser cancellations, he’s taking on-air dedications. “He acts like he’s done nothing wrong,” the plaintiff said. “There is too much lying going on with this case. I don’t want this to go away.”
Attempts to reach Wahl at the number listed in the FCC’s database were unsuccessful.