Judge finds no conflict in Arroyo case
Aspen Times Staff Writer
There is no conflict of interest that would interfere with a man charged with harassment being represented by the public defender’s office, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Martin Arroyo, 37, is accused of harassment, menacing and criminal mischief after his ex-girlfriend told police he yelled vulgarities at her and broke things in her home in late July during an argument.
Arroyo has been in the Pitkin County Jail since his arrest. He has objected to legal aid from the public defender’s office, claiming he has a conflict of interest based on how those attorneys handled a previous case for him.
Judge James Boyd of the Pitkin County District Court made his ruling after a 90-minute hearing during which Arroyo argued on his own behalf. Arroyo, who called attorney Jamie Roth of the public defender’s office to testify, said he was denied several rights when Roth defended him for a 2001 menacing charge in Garfield County.
Arroyo is also the alleged victim of an attempted murder case in Pitkin County. Aspen resident Donald Branson, 54, is accused of slashing Arroyo’s throat last April and planning to leave him for dead in a remote location near Old Snowmass. Arroyo was in a relationship with Branson’s ex-wife, Pam Branson, at the time of the alleged attack.
Pam Branson is the same person who called police about Arroyo in July, resulting in his menacing and harassment charges.
Since Assistant District Attorney Lawson Wills is using Arroyo as his chief witness in the prosecution of Donald Branson, special prosecutor Gretchen Buck-Larson was brought in to handle the case against Arroyo.
Arroyo appeared in court wearing jail-issue orange clothing. His ankles were chained together, and he sat down during the entire hearing, leaning forward for questions and leaning back in his chair to listen to responses.
He frequently shot looks of disgust at Buck-Larson and Jim Conway from the public defender’s office, who was sitting in the front row of the courtroom.
Arroyo’s questions for Roth centered around her performance when she represented him, indicating that she had too many other cases at once at the time and couldn’t focus on his case, resulting in his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge.
He also said a document in his file from the time was inaccurate, listing him as having committed prior felonies.
“It was clear you had no felony convictions, and that was never an issue, ever,” Roth said in response to Arroyo’s questions about the accuracy of his case.
Buck-Larson brought copies of transcripts from Arroyo’s 2001 case to the hearing as evidence, and both Roth and Conway told the court during her questioning that they feel there is no conflict of interest in representing Arroyo.
“It’s clear to me that he has buyer’s remorse [over his 2001 plea agreement] and wants to blame it on the public defender’s office,” Buck-Larson said. “We ask that you find that there is no conflict, and it’s his choice if he wants to represent himself. But we’d warn that there are perils if he proceeds on his own, and we’ll treat him like everyone else and not bend over backward to help him out.”
Although Boyd denied Arroyo’s request to have another attorney appointed for his case, Arroyo said he will continue to search for representation. His arraignment and the potential entry of appearance of Arroyo’s attorney, once he finds one, has been set for Nov. 3.
In addition, Boyd agreed to reduce Arroyo’s bond at the Pitkin County Jail from $5,500 to $3,000, ideally to help the defendant find representation. If Arroyo posts bond, he is under strict orders forbidding contact with Pam Branson.
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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