Idaho Springs man elects to defend himself in 12 Summit County trials
Ryan Summerlin June 19, 2014
For Park County Detention Center inmate Ray Wolfe, practicing law is a game anyone can play.
The Idaho Springs man appeared Wednesday, June 18, in Summit County District Court, where he faces a potential maximum sentence of more than four centuries in the Colorado Department of Corrections in 12 cases before 5th Judicial District Chief Judge Mark Thompson.
In April, Wolfe rejected a plea deal from the district attorney’s office and elected to take all 12 of his cases to trial. During Wednesday’s hearing, Wolfe went a step further by insisting he represent himself at trial.
“The simple fact is that, man, these aren’t complicated cases to me,” Wolfe told the court. “The law reads black and white. Anyone could do these cases, man. It’s that simple.”
“Mr. Franks has been practicing law for north of 30 years and he’s been a DA for at least the last 25. Mr. McAllister has been an attorney for several years. You have six weeks to prepare for trial. That’s a pretty steep learning curve.”
Chief Judge Mark Thompson
trying to pursuade Ray Wolfe to reconsider his decision to represent himself at trial
Wolfe, 37, is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, in district court for the first of his 12 pending trials; that trial is scheduled for three days in front of a jury. Wolfe faces one count of attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony; one count of tampering with physical evidence, a Class 6 felony; three counts of violating bail bond conditions, also a Class 6 felony; and one count each of false reporting to authorities and violating bail bond conditions, both misdemeanors.
Wolfe also faces three counts of “habitual criminal” sentencing enhancers. Under Colorado Revised Statutes, Wolfe faces a presumptive sentencing range of six to 12 years in DOC on the felony charges. If also found guilty of being a habitual criminal, Wolfe’s prison sentence could be increased to 24 years.
Wolfe sustained those charges while incarcerated at the Summit County jail. It is unclear when he was transferred to Park County.
Wolfe was originally arrested in August 2013 after he allegedly assaulted his 49-year-old girlfriend at the Snowshoe Motel in Frisco, according to court records. Deputy district attorney John Franks noted during previous hearings that the victim underwent surgery to have her spleen removed as a result of the alleged attack.
Wolfe is charged in that case with one count of first-degree assault, a Class 3 felony; one count of violation of bail bond conditions, a Class 6 felony; and one count of violating a protection order, a misdemeanor. Wolfe also faces two crime-of-violence sentencing enhancers. That case has not yet been scheduled for trial.
Although Wolfe faces a potential conviction of 24 years in his first trial, Franks said during Wednesday’s hearing that he and Wolfe’s attorney, Sean McAllister, of Denver, have worked diligently to negotiate numerous plea bargain deals with the defendant. The most recent of those deals would have required Wolfe to spend eight years behind bars. Wolfe declined the offer saying that sentence was too long. He faces a maximum of 410 years in DOC if found guilty on all of the charges in all of the cases against him.
The inability to come to a reasonable plea deal was just one of several reasons Wolfe cited before Chief Judge Mark Thompson in explaining why he wanted to defend himself at trial. Wolfe also said he doesn’t agree with McAllister’s interpretation of the law.
Notably, Wolfe cited a subsection of Colorado Revised Statutes he thinks protects him from being tried on charges of violating bail bond conditions without a prior conviction.
His argument was that he has not yet gone to trial on any of his cases and therefore cannot be charged with violating the terms of his bond since he has not yet been convicted of any crimes in his original case.
Thompson rebutted by citing a higher subsection of the same statute that states a suspect can be arrested, charged and tried if there is enough probable cause to support evidence that the defendant knowingly violated the terms of his bond. The fact that Wolfe’s other cases are pending is irrelevant, Thompson said.
Thompson then spent the majority of the hour-and-a-half-long hearing urging Wolfe to reconsider his decision to represent himself at trial by asking him if he knew how to draft jury instructions, present a legal argument and properly file motions, among others.
Wolfe, who is a bricklayer by trade, said he has no formal legal training.
“Mr. Franks has been practicing law for north of 30 years and he’s been a DA for at least the last 25,” Thompson said. “Mr. McAllister has been an attorney for several years. You have six weeks to prepare for trial. That’s a pretty steep learning curve.”
But Wolfe was adamant in his desire to press on alone, saying neither one of his two court-appointed attorneys have had his best interests at heart.
Breckenridge attorney J.B. Katz first represented Wolfe. She was later replaced by McAllister at Wolfe’s request.
“This guy here (McAllister) doesn’t care if I get 10 or 20 years, but I do,” Wolfe told the court.
Although Wolfe has elected to represent himself at trial, he did ask to keep McAllister as his attorney in an advisory capacity. Under Colorado law, McAllister will be able to answer Wolfe’s questions in his advisory role, but would not be able to file motions or present arguments on Wolfe’s behalf at trial.
Wolfe is scheduled to return to district court at 2 p.m. Aug. 11, for a pretrial hearing.
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