Appeals court deals with case<br>of allegedly indigent defendant
A Camp Verde man has a long courthouse drama ahead of him, but the prologue is over.
John Harry Allen, 58, appeared in Yavapai County Superior Court Division 5 last week for his first case management conference after the Arizona Court of Appeals determined he did not qualify as indigent.
That. determination overturns a decision by Judge William T. Kiger that would have given Allen a court-appointed public defender for his Superior Court cases.
Despite that, Allen had not yet retained counsel and said he did not have a full copy of the Court of Appeals decision. Kiger asked Allen whether he had names of potential attorneys and whether he expected to retain someone, and Allen responded "I'll try."
Therefore, Kiger continued the case for two weeks to allow Allen to retain counsel and be ready to proceed.
Yavapai County Public Defender Daniel' J. DeRienzo filed the special action on Allen's status as indigent with the Court of Appeals in early February.
DeRienzo said he didn't have an issue with Allen, or making sure he has competent counsel to defend him. However, he wanted a higher court to review the issue of indigency — a central issue to the services his office pro-vides — and specifically what economic condi-tions qualify a defendant for public defender ser-vices.
Allen, who faces numerous counts of child molestation, as well as counts of sexual conduct with a minor and sexual assault, originally told the courts at his initial appearance Sept. 7 that he has more than $200,000 in assets. At the time, he stated that he did not want an appointed attorney and was able to acquire private counsel.
The court ordered the defendant to obtain his own counsel, and appointed the public. Defender "until such time as the defendant obtains private counsel."
A Nov. 9 motion by Allen's attorney stated the defendant owns property with a fair market value of $150,000, as well as equipment valued at $60,000, and asked the court to reassess whether Allen was indigent.
On Dec. 21, Division 5 Judge Kiger found that the defendant was not indigent and directed him to retain the counsel of his choice. Allen did not obtain counsel, and asked for the court to once again consider the indigency petition. Allen filled out another financial statement on Jan. 22, listing $103,600 in assets and between $1,000 and $2,000 in monthly income.
That same day, Allen told the court he had a net worth of $150,000. He said he owns his land free and clear of any liens or encumbrances. He owns a boat, a backhoe, a truck, a house and two lots of unimproved real estate.
However, he said, his wife is severely ill and that the community is paying medical bills related to her illness.
Kiger reversed his earlier decision. He reappointed the Public Defender's Office "in the interest of justice and due to the nature of charges."
After that decision, DeRienzo said he needed to know what qualified as indigent, so that's why he filed the special action.
Few cases set precedent in this determination, he said. Each court makes its own determinations, and he has no standards.
In the case Morger vs. Superior Court In and For Pima County (1981), the court determined what factors constitute indigency.
In her case, the defendant owned land worth $18,000, and the judge determined she was not indigent. While, the case is 20 years old, he stated, the amount is far lower than Allen's admitted assets.
DeRienzo said he was pleased by the Court of Appeals decision on Feb. 21.
"It serves two purposes," he said. "First, it serves the taxpayers of Yavapai County by not providing services to clients who are not entitled to our services.
"We have a number of people who are indigent and cannot afford counsel. This also gives us more time to dedicate to the clients who really need our services."