Frisco child pornography suspect granted new trial nearly three years after arrest
A man facing child pornography charges was granted a delay in his case on the eve of trial after he opted to dispense with his fourth and final court-appointed attorney, choosing instead to seek a private lawyer to defend his case next March, nearly three years after his initial arrest.
District Court Judge Mark Thompson granted the request during a hearing on Monday afternoon over the objection of prosecutor Johnny Lombardi, who argued that the move was simply the latest in a string of delay tactics mounted by the defendant in the two-and-a-half year old case.
Kenneth Casey, 60, faces one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, a class-four felony, stemming from at least 2,000 pornographic images of children allegedly found on his computer in July 2015. The case was set for jury trial on Monday, Dec. 4, but is now scheduled for March 19-23, 2018.
Casey was arrested a few days after breaking up with his girlfriend of three months, who told Frisco police that she found the images on their shared computer while removing her personal files, according to court documents.
Casey’s attorneys have claimed during prior hearings that the woman hacked his email and changed his passwords and that “she essentially fabricated evidence” against him.
If convicted, Casey could face at least two to six years in prison or five years of probation. If aggravating factors were to be found at sentencing, his sentence could run as high as 12 years in prison.
“The age of this case is unquestionably old,” Judge Thompson said while delivering his ruling, adding that it was the oldest on the Summit County Court docket by a wide margin. “That is a source of frustration for the court and is a concern.”
Nonetheless, Thompson found that a recent change in Casey’s employment status meant that he now makes too much money to qualify for a public defender, albeit by a slim margin. Casey’s right to an attorney of his choice outweighed scheduling concerns with the court, Thompson said.
“There is a long procedural history in this case for a number of reasons, but I don’t think that should be the deciding factor in whether or not to grant a continuance,” said court-appointed attorney Cynthia Jones, who was effectively arguing to wash her own hands of the case.
Her dismissal at the end of Monday’s hearing was the fourth change in Casey’s representation so far. Two attorneys were dismissed because of court constraints, but Jones is the second to be retired at the request of Casey.
Two judges including Thompson rejected Casey’s prior requests to dismiss Jones after he argued that communication breakdowns and conflicts of interest should disqualify her. His new argument, that he now has the means to seek private counsel and should thus be allowed to, was successful.
During Monday’s hearing, however, Lombardi said he doubted that Casey would be able to afford a new attorney despite his new job, casting the move as another strategy to delay trial indefinitely.
“This has been going on for two-and-a-half years,” Lombardi said. “From what I’m seeing when I look at this filing history, this is for the purposes of delay. He’s had two-and-a-half years to think about hiring private counsel.”
Under questioning from Judge Thompson, Casey said he had reached out to four Front Range attorneys but had not heard back from any. Among them was Denver civil rights attorney David Lane, one of the most prominent lawyers in Colorado who recently won a $3.5 million settlement with Summit County over the death of a jail inmate.
“Two thousand dollars for a retainer is not going to get a foot in the door with David Lane,” Lombardi said, going on to suggest that a private attorney for the complex case could run as much as $25,000.
“That doesn’t phase me,” Casey retorted. “I’m wanting higher quality… I want to hire a person that will represent me 100 percent.”
Before ruling in Casey’s favor, Judge Thompson warned him that his decision to dismiss his public defender would leave him on the hook for his own defense at trial and that “no state assistance means no state assistance.”
Casey is due back in court with an attorney in January. Thompson emphasized that the case would likely proceed to trial in March even if Casey isn’t able to hire an attorney, raising the possibility that he would have to defend himself.
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