Thompson and lawyer split again | AspenTimes.com

Thompson and lawyer split again

A man accused of beating a friend to death in El Jebel in February 2001 may be forced to represent himself in a trial for the second time in two years.

Russell Thompson and the Eagle County Public Defenders’ office have parted ways for the second time in the bizarre case. Dana Christensen and Ken Barker, attorneys with the public defenders’ office, filed a motion earlier this month to withdraw from representing Thompson, who is facing a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart approved the motion Jan. 26. However, when Thompson appeared for a hearing in the case yesterday, Hart agreed to re-examine his decision to let the public defender withdraw.

The people involved in the case are under a gag order prohibiting them from speaking to reporters. Court documents indicate that the public defenders’ office alleged that Thompson and his family failed to comply with financial disclosure requirements. The office, financially supported by Colorado taxpayers, only takes clients who cannot afford to hire their own attorney.

The public defenders’ office contended that Thompson’s sister, Dee Dee Young, hasn’t supplied information on her financial status. Thompson has been living with Young in her Colorado Springs-area home since he got out of jail on bond in January 2002.

Thompson contends his sister’s financial resources shouldn’t be considered when the state determines whether or not he can afford an attorney. Hart is expected to rule on the case later this month.

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Thompson was initially charged with second-degree murder. Authorities claim he beat Timothy “Chico” Destromp while the two men got drunk on vodka and beer at Destromp’s apartment. Police claim that a fight broke out between the men. Destromp was beaten so badly that every bone in his face was broken, and he choked on his own blood.

Thompson ran to a neighboring house, called 911 and confessed to the beating. He repeated the confessions while in custody.

However, he later recanted the confessions and accused a neighbor of beating Destromp while Thompson was passed out in the apartment.

Thompson was initially represented by the public defenders’ office. However, he fired a former attorney in the office because she allegedly wanted to reach a plea bargain in the case.

Thompson defended himself in the September 2002 trial. A jury convicted him of manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. Thompson was sentenced to nine years in prison but Hart ordered a new trial on grounds that the deputy district attorney handling the case failed to properly disclose all of the witnesses she would call.

The district attorney’s office is retrying Thompson for manslaughter. It cannot pursue the second-degree murder charge.

Thompson was clearly agitated with Christensen and Barker during a December hearing. He told family members in the courtroom that his attorneys were trying to get him to take a plea bargain. Thompson and his family insist he is innocent. He said he will fight the charge again rather than agree to a plea bargain.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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