By Cynthia Hoang-Duong
WOODLAND, CA – During a pre-hearing conference here in Yolo County Superior Court last week, Deputy District Attorney Aaron Rojas urged the court to set the case’s preliminary hearing despite a man’s attempts to retain his rightful choice of private counsel under the Sixth Amendment.
The accused is charged with five felony counts for three instances of identity theft, fraudulent use of a card, and attempted grand theft, and one misdemeanor for petty theft.
Making a special appearance for the designated attorney of the case, Deputy Public Defender Danielle Craig reported to the court the attorney of record is employed with the public defender’s office, but the accused is currently in the process of retaining private counsel.
When asked to confirm, the accused agreed but added that the attorney he has contacted will be traveling to Nepal and expects to return in the middle of November.
The accused added, “I’ve been negotiating with him. He was agreeing to take my case … So we have been working out a payment schedule of some kind.”
Concerned that the case would have to be continued for another two months, Judge Frederick R. Rotenberg inquired when the attorney would leave for Nepal.
Unsure about his attorney’s traveling plans, the accused hesitantly estimated that he will possibly travel in a couple of weeks.
Based on this information, the judge decided to set the pre-hearing conference within a week to allow him to appear in court with his private attorney and confirm their negotiations.
Judge Rotenberg explained, “The People have a right to move this matter along, and putting it out for two months is not, in my mind, moving it along. If he has good cause not to be here and makes an appearance before the court, then we can discuss it at that point.”
DDA Rojas argued, “(The accused) has made this representation of the court multiple times before, and there’s never been an attorney that has shown up and made any appearance for him.”
He cited the accused’s same request two weeks ago and stated the prosecution’s continued objection; instead, requesting the case be set for a preliminary hearing.
The judge agreed to set a preliminary back-up date because, in the case the accused’s private attorney is not present, he can meet with the public defender to prepare for his defense.
“Rather than continue it again for the PD to get up to speed, we just put things in motion,” noted the judge.