Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson decides to be his own attorney in upcoming fraud trial
SALT LAKE CITY — Indicted St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson has decided to represent himself at his federal fraud trial set to start in less than a month.
Johnson filed a motion Monday to jettison his court-appointed attorneys, Greg and Rebecca Skordas, citing a conflict of interest that he claims limits his defense. Rebecca Skordas briefly represented a government witness in the case before being appointed as Johnson's lawyer.
Johnson said he can only see "impending disaster" if the Skordases, having been brought into the complicated case just six months ago, continue to defend him.
"Mr. Johnson acknowledges that neither option is desirable, but in the end, Mr. Johnson concludes that if his ship is going to sink either way, Mr. Johnson would prefer to be at the wheel and go down knowing that he did the best he could and did everything in his power to weather the storm," according to the court motion.
Magistrate Judge Paul Warner did everything he could to dissuade Johnson in a hearing last week from dumping his lawyers, including calling the decision "stupid." He gave Johnson until Monday to reconsider.
The Skordases were Johnson's third set of attorneys since he was first charged in 2011.
Johnson, Bryce Payne, Ryan Riddle and Scott Leavitt face dozens of fraud charges in connection with Johnson's now defunct multimillion dollar Internet marketing company, iWorks. They're accused of setting up shell companies to process consumer credit and debit cards when other accounts were closed by credit card issuers because of a large number of chargebacks.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer will oversee the four-week trial scheduled to start Feb. 1.
Johnson's first chance to act as his own attorney would be Tuesday at the final pretrial hearing where the judge and lawyers go over any outstanding issues and details for the trial.
He acknowledged that he lacks legal skills and experience and understanding of the law and court procedures.
"Mr. Johnson concludes that even the most skilled and experienced attorney is only as good as his knowledge and understanding of the evidence and the defense in a trial," he wrote.
Last week, Johnson said he knows the case better than any of his lawyers.
Johnson already represents himself in a parallel Federal Trade Commission case against him in Nevada. The two-week trial there was to begin this month, but a federal judge this week pushed it back to March 28.
Johnson noted in the court motion that Monday was his 40th birthday.
"Mr. Johnson feels old and tired," he wrote. "Mr. Johnson laments the spite, anger and waste of the last five years."
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