The jury trial for a man accused of a string of home invasions has been postponed for the second time, a move that has frustrated both prosecutors and the victims involved in the case.
Joseph A.S. Allen, 30, was supposed to stand trial next Monday, March 11, for breaking into six homes in the November and December of 2011.
But his attorney on Monday requested to withdraw from the case, citing a conflict of interest with one of the witnesses. The conflict was never disclosed in open court as Assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer provided the judge a factual basis during a sealed portion of a court hearing Tuesday.
After the sealed session and reviewing case law, Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez said he found a conflict exists with Allen being represented by the Alaska Public Defender Agency. Menendez granted Ayer’s request and appointed the Office of Public Advocacy to represent Allen instead.
Menendez noted he did not believe the request to withdraw was an attempt to “manipulate or angle” the system to try to delay trial.
“I don’t find a suggestion of that, based on what I’ve seen thus far,” Menendez said. “What I do find is a lawyer ready to try this case, but for this event that’s come to his attention.”
Menendez specifically addressed the victims, some of whom were sitting in the courtroom gallery, and apologized for the delay.
“Sometimes it’s hard to represent somebody when we’re conflicted in terms of who we can represent and how we can vigorously represent several people when in fact conflict exists, and I find conflict exists,” Menendez explained to them.
“The court does not lightly view these circumstances,” the judge added.
Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp had opposed the request for Ayer to withdraw, saying she and the victims have been ready to go to trial since Dec, 10, 2012, the first trial date that was set.
“I have multiple victims who are ready to go, have been ready to go and were ready to go in December, frankly,” Kemp said, adding, “I know that the victim’s are frustrated. I’m frustrated.”
Allen was indicted in September 2012 — nine months after his arrest — on 15 felonies for robbery, burglary, theft and vehicle theft in connection to 2011 break-ins, including the three reported break-ins on Dec. 26, 2011. Police said in one of the Dec. 26 instances, he encountered a woman at her Thunder Street home with her two children, and he threatened her with a gun and used physical force to rob her.
He was arrested on Dec. 27, 2011, on unrelated property theft crimes for stealing checkbooks, a rifle, ammo and other items, totaling about $3,800, from another home on Dec. 19, 2011. He has since been convicted and sentenced to serve 15 months in prison for that crime.
Allen has also since been charged, convicted and sentenced to serve a year in jail for burglarizing another home in October 2011.
Allen remains in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center where he is serving out those sentences.
A new trial date will be set for Allen during a status hearing in court on March 11.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.