GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Fredy Cabrera, accused of shooting a man to death and wounding the man’s girlfriend on July 31 near Glenwood Springs, is now being represented by two private attorneys, Kathy Goudy of Carbondale and Colleen Scissors of Basalt.
Local deputy public defender Tina Fang introduced the two attorneys to 9th District Judge Denise Lynch on Tuesday as they took over a case that Fang has been in charge of since Aug. 21, shortly after the shooting death of Douglas Menjivar outside his home south of Glenwood Springs, and the wounding of Cabrera’s stepdaughter, 18-year-old Leydy Trejo, who reportedly was living with Menjivar over Cabrera’s objections.
A preliminary hearing in the case, to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to warrant further prosecution, was to be held on Jan. 13, but the judge agreed to vacate that hearing. She told the attorneys she will hear the case again on Jan. 16, and decide at that point when to conduct a preliminary hearing, which is essentially a condensed version of a trial.
“I won’t allow the substitution [of attorneys] to drag this case out,” the judge said in court on Thursday.
Fang had announced in court on Nov. 21 that Cabrera would be hiring private counsel, although no reason for the switch was given, and no explanation has been given for the delay of nearly a month before a new attorney could be hired.
Questions have arisen since Cabrera’s case was turned over to the public defender. Cabrera owns two houses and three businesses in the Glenwood Springs-Carbondale area, and some have maintained he should not be able to qualify for free representation at taxpayers’ expense.
But Fang argued, and Lynch agreed, that Cabrera is too deeply in debt for those businesses and homes to be able to pay for an attorney, even if he sells the properties, and that he stands to lose them all because he is in jail without bond and not working.
According to an Aug. 15 letter to Fang from former public defender Greg Greer, now in private practice, having a private attorney in the case would cost Cabrera approximately $450,000. The judge subsequently ruled he was eligible for representation by the public defender.
After Cabrera’s hearing on Nov. 21, Fang had said she would let the court know by Dec. 19 if a new attorney had been found. She has refused to discuss the matter with reporters.
In addition, the state public defender’s office said there is no way to reliably determine how much of the taxpayers’ money has been spent on Fang’s initial work on Cabrera’s case. Instead, a spokeswoman for state public defender Douglas Wilson said the 21 regional offices of the public defender system operate on budgets funded by the Colorado General Assembly, and individual case expenses cannot be tracked.
On Thursday, Fang again declined to discuss with reporters why Cabrera is switching to a team of private attorneys.
One of the new attorneys, Scissors, at one point told reporters, “The court made a ruling that he is ineligible for the public defender.”
But no such ruling is reflected in the court file, and after consulting with Fang behind closed doors in a conference room of the county courthouse, Scissors backpedaled and told several reporters that “everything happened in open court” and that the reporters should check the court files for clarification.
Scissors also said she is unaware of any plea bargains on offer from the district attorney’s office, which matches with a statement from Deputy DA Scott Turner in court that there have been no plea negotiations in the case to date.