Ogden• A judge on Thursday allowed accused cop killer Matthew David Stewart to dump his public defenders in favor of private attorneys, despite county officials' concerns about funding the capital defense through trial.
In a hearing Thursday in 2nd District, Weber County attorneys said they had no objection to Stewart hiring private attorneys to replace the court-appointed defenders William Albright and Ryan Bushell. But officials said they wondered if the indigent Stewart could afford to keep his defense team on through the trial's end.
Defense attorney Randall Richards was hired by Stewart's family to represent the man from the beginning of the case, and stayed on as counsel even after funds reportedly dried up.
On Thursday, Richards said he had been "paid enough" to try the case to completion. "I give my word to the court that I'm willing to do that," he told the judge.
Richard's partner, Bernard Allen, and attorneys Jonathon Grimes and Michael Studebaker will also join Stewart's defense "low bono or pro bono," Richards said.
"We're all in," he said.
According to a website run by Stewart's family, more than $25,000 in donations have been collected to help with the man's defense.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said state law prevents the county from paying for defense resources when a defendant is represented by a private attorney.
Richards, however, said he believes Stewart might qualify for public money to pay for expert witness, investigators and other defense needs. "There may be a legal battle with regard to that issue," Richards said.
That concerns county officials, who worry the defense might run out of cash, leaving the county to again find public defenders for Stewart.
"Working pro bono is one thing," Allred said. "Coming up with money for additional defense resources is quite another."
Stewart had stated concerns with the public defenders in a recent letter to the judge. "I do not believe [the court-appointed attorneys] are representing me in a way that I would like to proceed," he wrote. After the hearing, however, Albright said Stewart was not firing him, but simply felt more comfortable with Richards, with whom his father had a relationship.
Stewart allegedly opened fire on members of the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force who were serving a search warrant at the defendant's Ogden home Jan. 4.
Ogden police Officer Jared Francom was killed; five other officers were injured. Prosecutors have said Stewart was hiding when the officers entered his home, then emerged and began firing a pistol. Stewart, 37, has claimed that he thought a group of men had broken into his home to rob and to murder him.
Stewart, who was wounded by police, is charged with aggravated murder and eight other felony counts relating to the shooting and marijuana cultivation. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty.