Former Utah public defender faces criminal charges
A former Garfield County public defender has been charged with extorting indigent clients, allegedly demanding money and guns to represent them.
John E. Hummel, 54, of St. George, faces seven felony counts of theft or attempted theft by extortion stemming from his time as a public defender in 2008 and 2009.
According to charges filed in 6th District Court, Hummel who served for a short time as Kane County Attorney told six indigent defendants that he could better represent them if they paid him, though he had been appointed by the court to represent them without charge.
In February 2009, a man agreed to pay Hummel $5,000 after the defense attorney told the man he "would have a better chance for a deal" and could be released from jail that day, the charges state. Hummel also told the man he could face additional charges if he did not sign over his weapons a pistol, rifle and shotgun Â to Hummel as a retainer, according to court documents.
"The victim was naive to the system and how it works, trusted [Hummel] and, further, wanted to be out of jail that day," the charges state.
According to charges filed in March, Hummel made similar demands of other defendants:
•Â In August 2008, Hummel told a man he would have to spend another 30 days in jail without handing over further compensation. The man gave Hummel a gun and cash.
•Â In January 2009, Hummel received $2,500 from an indigent defendant and then failed to appear for mandatory hearings.
• Another indigent defendant signed over three guns to Hummel in February 2009.
• In May 2009, Hummel asked an indigent client for guns, horses or money. He was promised, but never received, $500 worth of archery equipment.
• While representing a women on theft charges, Hummel asked for additional pay and received two 32-inch televisions, an iPod, a digital camera, a video camera, a PlayStation 3, a DVD player and two computers.
Attempts to reach Hummel were not immediately successful Thursday. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 20 in Panguitch before 4th District Judge James Taylor.
Court documents indicate Hummel intends to hire his own attorney.