Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupier Darryl Thorn is changing lawyers after an “irreparable breakdown in relationship” with his current attorney, Laurie Shertz.
U.S. District Court Judge Anna Brown announced the separation at a scheduled change of plea hearing for Thorn on Wednesday.
Thorn is charged with conspiracy to impede federal officers and possession of firearms in a federal facility.
He was scheduled to plead guilty Wednesday, but backed away from that decision hours earlier at a scheduled status hearing for the larger group of defendants.
Thorn will still have a chance to enter a guilty plea if he wants after he consults with a new attorney.
If Thorn decides not to plead guilty, he and other defendants — including brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy — will begin their trial Sept. 7.
So far, 1,500 jury summons have been sent out in preparation for jury selection. The trial itself will most likely last several months.
At a status hearing earlier Wednesday, defense attorneys said they’re struggling to get through the huge volume of evidence they’ve received from the government.
But Brown said the attorneys would need to do their best to get through it as quickly as possible, saying she was preserving the rights of defendants who want a speedy trial.
Brown also had harsh words for Ammon Bundy’s new attorney Marcus Mumford, who didn’t appear to have reviewed discovery prior to Wednesday’s hearing. The judge told Mumford he should first meet with prosecutors to get discovery before bringing issues before the court.
Mumford indicated that he would try once again to secure Bundy’s pretrial release.
Bundy’s other newly appointed council, Morgan Philpot, didn’t speak during the hearing.
Defendant Ryan Bundy, who is representing himself, said he wanted to attend a hearing Thursday in San Francisco.
The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear whether some of the defendants charged in Oregon who are also charged in a 2014 armed standoff in Nevada will have simultaneous defenses in two separate districts.
Nevada prosecutors have said they don’t intend to interfere with Oregon’s trial.
But defense attorneys write in court filings that they want the appeals court to rule on the issue to “break the stalemate between the two district courts in order to protect the important trial rights at stake and to preserve the constitutionally based rules for priority of prosecutions.”
For their part, the government has written in court filings that “this appeal is moot and should be dismissed.”