OGDEN — An Ogden man accused of shooting a number of police officers and killing one will be allowed to have a private attorney — even as the question of funding hangs in the air.
Attorney Randall Richards, his partner Bernard Allen and two others will represent Matthew David Stewart, 38, who has been charged with capital murder; seven counts of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; and production of a controlled substance, a second-degree felony, in the shooting at Stewart's Ogden home that left Ogden police officer Jared Francom dead.
"All of us will be serving on a low bono or pro bono basis," Richards told 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde Thursday. "I will carry on through trial and sentencing, as necessary. … We're willing to go through this and take it to the end."
Stewart and his family want Richards to represent him. But Stewart was found to be indigent, which prompted the court to appoint two public defenders — attorneys William Albright and Ryan Bushell — that were paid with funds from Weber County.
Stewart's family created a website asking for as much as $70,000 for Stewart's defense. Meantime, Richards stayed on the case even after Hyde ruled that Albright and Bushell would be Stewart's primary attorneys.
But on May 18, Stewart sent a letter to Hyde asking that he "release" Albright and Bushell as his attorneys. The main concern at Thursday's hearing is where the money for expert defense witnesses and investigators will come from.
"Working pro bono is one thing," prosecutor Chris Allred said. "Coming up with additional resources for defense funding is quite another."
The Weber County Attorney's Office has already made it clear that it does not believe it is required to pay for those resources if Stewart has dismissed the attorneys under contract and hired private counsel. Prosecutor Sandra Corp said her office is also concerned about any delays that potential defense cash flow problems could cause in the Stewart case and in general.
"There is some concern that, at some point in time, counsel would not be able to support their own law office," Corp said, pointing out that capital murder cases take thousands of hours of work.
She said sticking to a preliminary hearing date in July is a priority and she worries delays due to counsel and funding issues will be raised down the road.
"We don't want to be in a position where somebody withdraws, we go down the road and then they are not prepared because they can't pay for (defense) resources," Corp said.
She asked that Hyde make sure Stewart was absolutely aware that the decision to have Richards represent him might mean there is no money to pay experts or investigators. Stewart confirmed that he understood.
Richards was confident that his firm would be fine handling the case.
"We're going to go forward because I believe in Matt Stewart," he said.
Albright said after the hearing Thursday that he and Stewart have a good relationship and that he had been going to meet the man on a weekly basis. The insistence on Richards was nothing personal.
"That's what (Stewart's) father is most comfortable with," Albright said. "(Michael Stewart) has known Mr. Richards for years. They’ve worked together for 15 years-plus."
The officers who arrived at Stewart's home that night had received information that Stewart was growing marijuana. After announcing their presence, they were able to clear the main floor and basement of the home before Stewart allegedly emerged and opened fire. Francom was killed and five other officers were also shot and injured during the melee.
Stewart's family calls the incident a "tragic misunderstanding" and contends that the man believed he was being robbed and didn't hear the officers announce their presence.