SUBLETTE COUNTY – Three defense attorneys made strong arguments against their three defendants having three separate trials joined into one as requested by Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson, at an April 22 motion hearing in 9th District Court.
Public defender Elisabeth Trefonas was the only one to file an objection against having a trial for her client Antwan T. Kegler joined with his two co-defendants, Nykolus K. Williams-Richburg and Jerquila K. Bell, all of Florida and arrested Feb. 9 while traveling in two cars.
Crosson had recently added more than a dozen charges against Bell and Richburg; Bell is also charged with the felony of bringing a controlled substance, marijuana, into the Sublette County Jail.
The three Florida residents were arrested with more than 50 driver’s licenses, credit and debit cards, checkbooks, cell phones and other personal items reported stolen in the previous weeks by owners from a number of states.
Each pleaded not guilty during March 18 videoconference arraignments to assorted felonies and misdemeanors.
Crosson stated his position before District Judge Marv Tyler – “This is exactly the kind of case intended for joinder. … (With three separate trials) the state would have to bring every victim in every case.”
He estimated trial costs of $100,000 “to bring all witness for all three cases.” And one trial would conserve resources.
Judge Tyler asked about Kegler and the additional charges filed against the other two defendants.
“It’s essentially part of all same criminal scheme,” Crosson said. “There’s more charges but similar charges that come from the same incidents.”
Trefonas disagreed; because none of the three have given interviews, she and fellow public defenders Rachel Weksler and Rives White – and Crosson – would have to cross-examine each one
“This is exactly the kind of case that should not be joined,” Trefonas said, citing “layers of complexity.”
Judge Tyler said Crosson was pointing to a criminal conspiracy with an alleged forges check in one car and the checkbook in another.
Weksler, representing Bell, agreed one trial would be “incredibly complex for a jury to sort out. … I do believe the prejudice (against Bell) would outweigh the goals of efficiency and economy.”
White, representing Richburg, pointed to “30-some charges between the three of them” and some apply to just one defendant. There would be “reams of jury instructions” and verdict sheets, he added.
Crosson said he didn’t think a jury would have a problem. “Juries keep track and take notes; in general, juries are serious about paying attention.”
Trefonas and White said they might file motions to sever their defendants from a single trial.
A trial has not been conducted in 9th District Court since COVID restrictions were placed – each case thus far has closed with a plea agreement.
Later, Judge Tyler ruled to join the three trials into one.