Thursday, January 26, 2006
A Routt County district judge warned a man charged with fondling a 7-year-old boy that he might have to represent himself if he doesn't find an attorney before his June trial.
The 43-year-old Steamboat Springs man -- who is not being named to protect the boy's identity -- pleaded not guilty in October to charges he sexually assaulted his employer's son.
When the man entered that plea, his attorney was Heather Turner. Turner's law license was suspended in December after District Judge Michael O'Hara ruled she had abandoned her clients by not appearing in court or communicating with court officials.
The man has since been without a defense attorney.
At a hearing Jan. 13, O'Hara told the man he needed to replace Turner to get ready for a March trial. During a hearing Thursday, O'Hara seemed frustrated that the man still had not retained an attorney.
Attorney Kris Hammond told O'Hara the man's wife had tried to hire him to represent her husband, but he declined to take on the case.
"Seeing as how I declined to take the case, I promised her I would appear today to assure the court she is trying," Hammond said.
"I'm sure they're looking. I'm sure they'll continue to look."
O'Hara said he understood, but trial deadlines were approaching. The court must schedule a trial within six months of the defendant's not-guilty plea. The man's timeframe for a speedy trial would end in April.
The man said he was willing to waive his right to a speedy trial, but O'Hara told him that finding time to try the case later would be hard for the court because of crowded dockets and would be hard on the defendant.
"Obviously you're in custody," O'Hara. "It's likely you'll stay in custody. I'm not going to let you out (of jail) because of the problems that have happened here."
Deputy District Tammy Jen-son told O'Hara she was worried about moving the trial date because she already had subpoenaed 30 witnesses to testify.
"At some point we have to end this. He needs to apply for the public defender and move on," she said.
"I can't keep continuing this case," he said. "While you have certain rights, so does the prosecution and so does the victim.
"If there's no attorney on board, (the man) will be representing himself. I don't know what else to say about that," O'Hara said.
O'Hara scheduled the four-day trial to begin at 8:15 a.m. June 5. A scheduled five-hour motions hearing will be held March 24.
--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org