OGDEN — A man accused of shooting six police officers, killing one, currently has three attorneys defending him.
But a legal tug of war seems to be emerging between the attorneys, prosecutors and a judge.
Matthew David Stewart's original attorney, who says his client still wants him as his lawyer, claims prosecutors are ignoring him and his requests and are refusing to recognize him as an attorney for Stewart.
Earlier this month, 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde appointed new attorneys for Stewart — William Albright and Ryan Bushell. The two public defenders were both awarded a contract by Weber County to defend Stewart after Stewart filed a motion saying he was indigent, qualifying him to receive attorneys paid by the state.
But defense attorney Randall Richards refused to withdraw from the case. He was hired privately by Stewart's family and this week filed a slew of motions in court on Stewart's behalf.
Stewart, 37, is facing charges of aggravated murder, a capital offense; seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; and production of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony. Prosecutors also filed a dangerous weapon penalty enhancement charge and have said they intend to seek the death penalty.
All three attorneys are qualified to represent Stewart as they meet the state-mandated requirements to handle death penalty cases. Richards, however, alleges that prosecutors in the Weber County Attorney's Office are refusing to work with him. In one court motion, he said Stewart has requested that he continue to represent him.
The recommendation to appoint Bushell and Albright came from the civil division of the Weber County Attorney's Office, but deputy county attorney Chris Allred said it was made independent of the prosecutors handling the case.
"We decided to go with (Albright) for out-of-county counsel," he said. "It might be cleaner to go with someone who isn't connected to the defendant's family."
Allred said Richards knew some of the officers involved and was a friend of Stewart's father.
Richards also filed a motion this week asking the judge to implement a restraining order to "prevent destruction of evidence" and compel prosecutors to hand over to him the evidence they've compiled thus far.
"The prosecution continues to ignore defense counsel of choice's repeated requests for discovery material based on the fact that they do not recognize Randall W. Richards as the defendant's privately retained counsel," Richards wrote. "This refusal to recognize counsel of choice is hampering defense efforts and may cause a reversible prejudice to the defense's case."
Richards said prosecutors have told him they will only provide the evidence to Albright and Bushell and would not agree to ask the police officers to retain their notes, "saying that officers never make mistakes in converting notes to their official report," the motion states.
Richards is asking Hyde to order that all notes or other recordings made by any officer or anyone else involved in investigating the case be preserved in addition to copies of any videos or recordings taken from the crime scene, including helmet and dash cam recordings.
"In the case of this magnitude, where the state is asking that Mr. Stewart's life be taken, this court should require nothing less than total preservation of all evidence, and total discovery of all evidence," Richards wrote.
Richards is also asking that private investigator Kris Cantil be appointed to the case, pointing out that prosecutors have 52 investigating police officers, two private county attorney investigators, state and county crime scene investigators and several other agencies "providing investigation of this case for prosecution and potential execution of Matthew Stewart."
Prosecutors would not appoint Cantil, saying instead that they would only appoint an investigator to assist their "selected defense indigent counsel" and decided on Carl Hurst.
For the time being, Richards, Bushell and Albright are all working on Stewart's case.
The charges against Stewart stem from a gunfight with members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force after the officers showed up at Stewart's home to serve a search warrant on Jan. 4.
Investigators had received information that Stewart was growing marijuana. After announcing their presence, officers were able to clear the main floor and basement of the home before Stewart emerged and allegedly opened fire.
Ogden police officer Jared Francom died from injuries suffered during the shootout. Five other officers were also shot and injured. Investigators later found a marijuana grow operation in the basement, including artificial lighting and a water system.
A status conference has been set in the case for March 19.
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