An assistant prosecutor said the inmate is just stalling.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The man accused of killing a 71-year-old Struthers man by running him over with a car couldn't go to trial Wednesday because he doesn't have a lawyer.
Michael J. Hogan, 37, of Forest Ridge Drive, Boardman, is charged with murder and aggravated robbery in the death of John K. Ruble Sr. Police say Hogan ran over Ruble at a recycling center behind the Boardman fire station on South Avenue in May.
The case was set for trial Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, but instead Judge James C. Evans had to decide who will represent Hogan.
Atty. Mark Lavelle had been appointed to defend Hogan at taxpayers' expense because Hogan cannot afford to pay a lawyer. However, Hogan sent a letter to the judge asking that Lavelle be dismissed and another lawyer appointed.
"He just does not have my best interest at heart," Hogan said, complaining that Lavelle has ignored telephone calls from his family and visited him at the county jail only once since he was appointed.
His mind didn't change when Judge Evans showed him a case file full of motions that Lavelle has filed on Hogan's behalf.
Lavelle, who had filed a motion asking to be removed from the case, said there's been a complete communication breakdown between him and Hogan.
Lavelle said Hogan has refused to follow his advice against speaking to anyone other than his lawyer about the crime. He was upset that Hogan was interviewed by The Vindicator, even though he'd advised Hogan against it.
"I don't understand what goes on in this man's mind," Lavelle said. "Right now we have no relationship whatsoever."
Judge Evans granted the request to appoint a new lawyer, despite the objection of Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken, who said moves like Hogan's have become common among jail inmates awaiting trial.
"It's a stall thing now going through the jail," Franken said. "There seems to be an epidemic of these guys waiting until just before trial and then saying they want another lawyer."
Besides causing delays in court dockets, Franken said the repeated requests for new lawyers cost the county more money because it ends up paying two or three lawyers to defend one inmate.