A judge on Friday allowed the lead defendant in a Santa Maria gang-related torture and slaying case to again have a court-appointed attorney five months after Ramon David Maldonado requested to represent himself.
Maldonado made his request Friday near the end of a hearing where Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rick Brown rejected several motions from the defendant who is accused of spearheading the torture and killing of Anthony Ibarra, 28, on March 17, 2013.
Seven defendants will stand trial for the death of Ibarra who was killed in a West Donovan Road house in north Santa Maria, authorities said. His body was found in a U-Haul rental truck located in Orcutt.
The other defendants are Reyes Gonzalez, Santos Sauceda, David Maldonado, Anthony Solis, Ramon Maldonado Jr. and Jason Castillo. Four other defendants, Pedro Torres Jr., Carmen Cardenas, Verenisa Aviles and Robert Stan Sosa, accepted pleas in the case.
Near the end of the hearing, Ramon Maldonado requested Friday afternoon the judge reappoint Michael Scott, who had previously represented Maldonado and later served as legal advisor.
“I’m not too proud to say that,” Maldonado said. “I cannot handle this at this time.”
Brown warned Maldonado that he could not flip-flop.
“Let’s be clear — I wouldn't let you switch back again,” Brown told Maldonado. “We can’t go back and forth.”
Maldonado’s request came after Brown rejected a motion for an extension with the jailed defendant complaining he has had limited time and access to prepare his defense in the three and half months he served as his own attorney. A bulk of the discovery information is under a protective order and can’t be shared inside the Santa Barbara County Jail.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen noted Maldonado has served as his own attorney for five months.
“For him to say he doesn’t have any discovery is not true,” Bramsen added.
She also said that the defense investigator working on the case didn’t change when Maldonado began representing himself. Maldonado also reportedly said in a jailhouse postcard that he regularly meets with the investigator, the prosecutor told the judge.
“He has not in his declaration asserted a good cause and his motion should be denied,” Bramsen said.
The judge has been emphatic at starting the complex trial Nov. 17, reminding attorneys repeatedly and remarking on it even when they appear before him in other cases.
He noted that it is appropriate to set deadlines, and said good cause must be shown for a judge to postpone the start date. The judge also said the Nov. 17 date was set in the spring with Maldonado’s concurrence.
“There is very strong grounds for a continuance,” Maldonado said, citing thousands of pages and more than 100 compact discs with evidence related to the case.
Maldonado denied he asked to represent himself to delay the trial, saying he sought “a fair chance for a fair trial.”
“My life is on the line right here,” Maldonado said.
Attempts to line up court-approval to hire expert witnesses also have been delayed by another judge’s vacation, Scott said, adding those experts won’t begin work on the case until they’re assured payment.
“You need to get the job done. You can do it. You’re getting a lot of help, a lot of assistance,” Brown told Maldonado before denying the motion for a continuance.
Maldonado also asked the judge to dismiss the gang allegation and the count of dissuading a witness.
But Brown also rejected that motion, contending testimony in front of the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury provided probable cause for the charges to remain.
“That’s really all we need for this,” Brown said after reading some of the alleged statements from the grand jury transcript. “I’m going to deny that motion.”
When Maldonado tried to cite a police report, Bramsen objected and Brown agreed.
“You have to base it on the transcript from the grand jury report,” Brown told Maldonado. “The police report has nothing to do with this.”
Because the case has so many defendants and attorneys, major hearings are being held at the Santa Maria Juvenile Court facility.
Several defendants face life in prison without parole if convicted.