OGDEN — Second District Judge Noel S. Hyde on Tuesday ordered a May 31 hearing to consider a request from Matthew David Stewart to fire his public defenders.
Stewart has told the court he wants to use attorneys he selects to defend him against aggravated murder charges in the Jan. 4 shootout with police that resulted in the death of one officer.
The May 31 hearing will be to question Stewart in more detail about his decision to hire private attorneys and to explore whether Stewart is indigent and qualifies for public defenders.
In the meantime his public defenders, William Albright and Ryan Bushell, remain in place.
Stewart, who remains in the Weber County Jail without bond, said in a Friday letter to Hyde that he no longer wants to be represented by Albright and Bushell.
“I do not believe that they are representing me in a way that I would like to proceed,” he said in the letter, a copy of which the Standard-Examiner obtained from the court file.
“My attorney, Randall W. Richards, will continue to represent me as my counsel of choice, and I understand that Bernard L. Allen and Jonathan Grimes will be entering as co-counsel with Mr. Richards to represent me throughout the remainder of the proceedings. I am asking that this release be effective immediately.”
Weber County Attorney Dee Smith filed a motion with the court objecting to the request and asked for a hearing to determine the status of Stewart’s legal representation.
“This motion is filed in the interest of justice to avoid delay and protect the rights of all parties to receive a speedy adjudication of the case,” the motion states.
Albright said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that he has received a letter from Richards, stating that Stewart’s family has money to hire private legal counsel. As a result, Stewart may no longer be indigent and eligible for the services of a public defender.
Richards declined to provide the Standard-Examiner a copy of the letter following Tuesday’s hearing.
However, he said legal fees would be paid by Stewart’s family and through private donations. In addition, some of the work of Stewart’s private defense team would be provided pro bono, or free of charge.
Prosecutors said they are concerned about Stewart’s private defense team remaining intact throughout the duration of the legal proceedings and trial.
A website at www.helpmatthewstewart.org indicates more than $25,000 has been raised for Stewart’s defense fund.
Michael Stewart, who is Matthew Stewart’s father, said following the hearing that his family wants Richards because the public defenders haven’t done their job.
“They want to hurry up the preliminary hearing, which is not something you want to see happen,” he said.
Stewart’s preliminary hearing, which will determine if there is probable cause to believe he committed a crime, is set for July 18-20.
Richards said the preliminary hearing date is unrealistic because he has not received ballistics test results and other evidence.
At Tuesday’s hearing Hyde denied a request made by Richards for a hearing about hiring an additional defense investigator.
The ruling from Hyde makes Richards’ request for an investigator moot. Albright has said in court documents that another investigator is not needed, but Richards disagrees.
Stewart faces a capital homicide charge, which carries the possibility of the death penalty upon conviction, and eight other felony counts in a Jan. 4 shootout with police at his home. Weber-Morgan Strike Force Agent Jared Francom, an Ogden police officer, died of his injuries, and five other officers were wounded.