‘A breakdown of trust’: Breckenridge man accused of manslaughter again refuses to appear in court for conflict of interest hearing

Miles Tovar has remained in the custody of the Summit County jail since his arrest but has refused to attend hearings related to the conflict of interest.

Miles Fernando Tovar is charged with manslaughter, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and harassment in connection to the death of then-29-year-old Brendan Rye, who was killed during an altercation in Breckenridge on Nov. 6, 2019.
U.S. Marshal Service/Courtesy photo

A Breckenridge man accused of manslaughter refused for a second time Monday to appear before a Summit County judge for a hearing about an alleged conflict of interest he raised with his public defender.

But Judge Karen Romeo nonetheless ordered new counsel be appointed to Miles Tovar after ruling that a conflict with his current public defender has led to mistrust and a lack of communication.

“It seems that Mr. Tovar just absolutely does the opposite of what counsel is suggesting,” Romeo said. “To me that is a clear indication that there is a breakdown of communication, a breakdown of trust.”

Tovar is accused of killing his roommate, Brendan Rye, in 2019. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on Nov. 22 on an outstanding warrant for charges of manslaughter, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and harassment.

The arrest came after Tovar turned himself in to deputy marshals in Bridgeport, Connecticut, last October, more than nine months after the warrant for his arrest was issued. He has been held on a $51,500 bond since his arrest.

Tovar had been drinking heavily on Nov. 6, 2019, according to an affidavit for arrest filed in the case, before getting in a fight with Rye later in the night. The two had reportedly been living in a condominium unit they were remodeling in Breckenridge.

When police responded to a call a little after 9:45 p.m. that night, they discovered Rye lying unresponsive in the bathroom and Tovar lying on the floor in the hallway between the unit’s two bedrooms with a single gunshot wound to his right leg, the affidavit states. Police reportedly found a gun under Rye. 

Another roommate had been home at the time, according to the affidavit, and told police he had been in his room with headphones when he felt the whole apartment shake. At first the roommate assumed the shaking was Tovar stumbling while drunk, but when Tovar came to his door requesting help, the roommate discovered Tovar was bleeding and found Rye on the floor in the bathroom, the affidavit states.

Earlier in the night, Tovar had been drinking at a nearby condominium unit and had been asked to leave after the residents of that unit became concerned with his behavior, according to the affidavit. He reportedly refused to leave and returned several times after being escorted out.

After he was released from the hospital for his gunshot wound, Tovar told investigators at the Breckenridge Police Department he and Rye had gotten into a fight when he returned to his condominium for the night, the affidavit states.

Tovar reportedly said he and Rye had been fighting face to face while standing up in one of the bedrooms when he heard a “POP!” and realized he had been shot in the leg. Tovar said he then started choking Rye from behind, the affidavit states, at which point he heard another gunshot.

However, a forensic investigation determined that the trajectory of the first gunshot “was not consistent with Mr. TOVAR’s statements,” according to the affidavit, adding that the injury was more likely inflicted while he had Rye in a chokehold from behind than while the two were face to face.

Tovar has yet to make his first appearance in the manslaughter case. He refused to appear at the hearing Monday as he had done two weeks earlier. Romeo said she notified him in an order that if he did not appear he would be waiving his right to be heard on the conflict-of-interest matter.

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Cava told Romeo that it could be hard to conduct a hearing — known as a Bergerud hearing, where the judge inquires about the nature of the conflict of interest — without Tovar present.

Cava also noted that “the jail is not a hotel” and added, “I do think there are ways to make him be present while he has his liberty restricted in our jail.”

But Romeo said she did not think it rose to the level where the court would have to force Tovar to be present. She then closed the hearing to the prosecution and public and consulted with Jensen about the nature of the conflict.

After the confidential Bergerud hearing, Romeo said the conflict arose early in the case and stems from a request for a preliminary hearing — a hearing where the court reviews the probable cause in a case — that was denied by the court. She described the conflict as “a very serious matter” and said Tovar has become confused as a result of it.

Romeo began the process of assigning Tovar a new attorney and set his first appearance for March 13.

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