Stewart makes first court appearance

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 11:00 AM

Tim Gurrister

OGDEN — Matthew David Stewart, clad in an orange jumpsuit, made his first court appearance Wednesday morning via video link from Weber County Jail. The only question Stewart was asked directly was to confirm his name.

Stewart, 37, stood during the hearing, rocking back and forth as the court clerk read the charges he faces and named the police officers involved for each charge.

Stewart is charged with aggravated murder, which could bring the death penalty, seven counts of attempted aggravated murder and one count of production of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone.

The charges stem from a Jan. 4 shootout at his home with members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force. Ogden Police Officer Jared Francom died of his wounds, and five other officers were wounded.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith has said he intends to seek the death penalty against Stewart.

Stewart's attorney, Randy Richards, told Judge Brent West he is having trouble getting information he sought as part of his discovery motions.

Deputy County Attorney Chris Shaw responded that the case file is "voluminous" and still being compiled. He noted that Stewart may end up with a public defender as his attorney, not Richards.

Richards responded that he’s Stewart’s attorney now and he needs the material to work on Stewart's defense.

Richards also told West his client was having "significant problems with his digestive issues" from wounds received during the shooting.

Richards said he was concerned jailers would not be looking after Stewart's needs. He said he had not yet talked to jailers, but Stewart had complained to the jail.

West advised Richards that the jail would respond to his concerns as Stewart's legal representative. If not, the judge advised, have jailers contact the court.

West noted Richards' comments for the record and set a status conference for Tuesday.

After Wednesday's hearing, Richards declined to answer most questions.

He did however speak about materials officials say they found in Stewart's home, particularly a photograph that authorities have been quoted as saying shows Stewart dressed "like a terrorist."

"In the picture, he's standing next to Tinkerbell," Richards said. "It was obviously a Halloween costume."

He called the depiction of Stewart as some sort of homegrown terrorist part of the "misinformation" officials have allowed in the media, such as referring to Stewart's record.

Stewart has no prior criminal record except for traffic offenses, Richards said. "In that case, we all have prior records."

Francom and other Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force agents were ambushed while executing a knock-announce search warrant at Stewart's small, red-brick home, according to police reports.

Francom was struck six times with bullets from a Beretta 9mm semiautomatic pistol fired by Stewart from a concealed position in the home, an arrest warrant affidavit states.

Wounded were strike force agents Shawn Grogan and Kasey Burrell, of the Ogden Police Department; Sgt. Nate Hutchinson, of the Weber County Sheriff's Office; and Jason Vanderwarf, of the Roy Police Department.

Ogden Officer Michael Rounkles was also wounded when he arrived and tried to help the injured strike force agents.

All of the wounded officers have been released from the hospital.

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