Lawyer: Son's relation with 'missing' dad strained

Joey Jackson, who represents Jonathan Ross in the missing swimmer case, says the two had an unhealthy relationship. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Aug. 9, 2012)

The attorney for the Massapequa man accused of helping fake his father's Jones Beach drowning said Thursday that his client was deeply influenced by a troubled relationship with his father.

"It's safe to say that it's a very strained and unfortunate relationship," said Manhattan lawyer Joey Jackson, after Jonathan Roth made a brief court appearance. "The issues going on with his father affected the decisions that he made."

Jackson wouldn't elaborate on the relationship between Roth, 22, and his father, Raymond Roth, 47, also of Massapequa.

MORE: Read the arraignment

In an interview Saturday with Newsday, Jonathan Roth said that it was tough growing up with his father. "He would go crazy sometimes," the son said. "He was really hard on me my whole life."

Raymond Roth, who has not been charged, is being held in a Long Island psychiatric facility, according to his attorney, Brian David. Roth has struggled with mental illness since he suffered a brain injury at the age of 7 after being hit by a car, David said. He said Raymond Roth will be released to authorities when he "is no longer a danger to himself."

Jonathan Roth has pleaded not guilty to second-degree insurance fraud and fourth-degree conspiracy, both felonies, and to falsely reporting an incident and making a false written declaration, both misdemeanors.

Thursday's court hearing was adjourned to Tuesday.

Prisoners handcuffed together with Jonathan Roth shouted "Free Roth!" as they emerged from the bus outside the courthouse. Jonathan Roth's girlfriend, Kristi Mayleas, was present in court.

Jonathan Roth told state park police July 28 that he saw his father walk into the ocean off Jones Beach until he was chest deep, and had not seen him since.

In the criminal complaint filed this week, prosecutors said Jonathan Roth stood by as authorities conducted a massive search, using a helicopter, 40 lifeguards, five fire department dive teams, marine patrols and the Coast Guard.

Jonathan Roth admitted Monday to helping fake his father's death in a plot to collect on a $50,000 life insurance policy, according to the complaint.

Raymond Roth was presumed drowned until Aug. 1, when his brother called police to say Roth was in Orlando, Fla. He was ticketed for speeding the same day in Santee, S.C.

Lenard Leeds, the Carle Place lawyer who represents Raymond Roth's wife, Evana, said investigators visited his office Wednesday to pick up Roth's clothing, wallet and cellphone, all of which he left on the beach before he disappeared.

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