Unexpected hearing in the hazing case
On June 19 a "motion to change" their conditions of release was filed in Superior Court for Navajo County against three of the alleged perpetrators in the Winslow hazing case. Before that the hearing set for July 5 was supposed to be routine and mainly held with lawyers, by telephone. After the motion was filed the defendants were required to be present.
It appears that on June 7 at about 9:30 p.m. a group of the defendants were seen walking along the right field line of the softball field. Then Steven Garnett, Jr., Martin Woods and Jason Black went over to the left field line where two of the young men who are among the alleged victims were standing. Garnett and Black spoke to others who were there and to the victims. This broke the rules of the court order under which the defendants remain released from confinement while they await trial.
Judge Fred Newton of Coconino County is presiding in the hazing cases and comes to Holbrook to hold court. It was Newton who made the decision that Garnett and Black had violated the rules. Martin Woods was not held in violation. Garnett and Black were both ordered to put up an additional $500 bond. All the defendants were strictly enjoined by the judge "to stay at least 100' away from any victims" and to have no contact with any witnesses.
The defendants' attorneys had presented the response that Winslow is a small town and contact is inevitable. The response said that the conversation consisted of an "exchange of cordialities" and requested the court to encourage a "u-turn philosophy" between the sides of the case when defendants and victims cross paths.
Judge Newton did not take the defense attorneys' advice. His standard was stricter and it is now the defendants who must avoid contact. The motion from the victim made it clear that he felt threatened by even seeing a group of the defendants in public together and additionally by the fact that some of them approached him.
In the case management conference which was also held July 5 the judge informed the attorneys that he felt August 25 was "a date for settlement conference." Assistant Navajo County Attorney Joel Ruechel said that he "will try to get plea offers out this week." The defendants will then have more than a month in which to decide whether to accept the plea offers or to go forward to trial. Judge Newton made it plain that he intended to see the cases to conclusion before the end of this year. He also "advised all the defendants to seriously talk to their attorneys about the plea offer that will be made by the state."
Two of the defendants who have only one or two counts against them have asked that their cases be remanded to the Grand Jury and/ or severed from the group of hazing cases now being heard as one by the court. The judge allowed the remands, saying they must be completed by August 4.
The state, in papers filed June 29, said that it was prepared to offer "testimony from numerous witnesses and additional victims of the crimes perpetrated by the defendants." The defendants who have made disclosure, the state's attorney said, have basically "raised the defense of general denial. The state must therefore prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's intent and knowledge when engaging in sexual assault upon the victims." The state must also prove the defendants "knowingly restrained" the victims.
The state has filed witness lists with the court. By July 7 there were still no such lists filed for the defense. Judge Newton has said that he expects all witness interviews to be completed before August 25.
In a related matter, the case of Daniel Gonzales also went through a status hearing. Gonzales' attorney said that they were not ready for interviews and felt that a conference in August "would not be a meaningful process at this time." Gonzalez attorney also asked for and was granted a remand to the Grand Jury on or before August 4.
Friday, July 14 two defendants in the Winslow hazing case were seen in court by Judge Fred Newton. There was an additional motion to modify the terms of release submitted by Assistant Navajo County Attorney Joel Ruechel for Jason Black and William Shoup.
It was alleged that Black and Shoup had contacted one or more victims and witnesses and that their comments and gestures constituted harassment.
Both the prosecuting and defense attorneys asked that the defendants be allowed to leave the county. Judge Newton said that he was setting a new cash bond of $3000 as he considered their conduct disorderly and that it violated the terms upon which they had been released. The bond was instituted to enforce the terms of their release, according to sources in the office of the Winslow city attorney.
The two defendants were out on bail by Monday morning, according to the County Attorney's office, which said they did not appear on the daily list from the county detention centers.
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