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The displeasure Rocky Houston displayed with attorney Robert Kurtz during a hearing on July 8 was a sign of things to come.
Kurtz was appointed that day to represent Houston in his federal firearms case.
“This man is ineffective,” Houston shouted in the courtroom. “I can’t work with this man.”
Kurtz’s attempts to work with Houston over the next couple of weeks would prove unsuccessful.
The lawyer filed a motion on Houston’s behalf on July 26 to review his appointment as counsel.
“A conflict has developed between the attorney and client in terms of trial strategy, defense theory and the proof that the defense anticipates would be presented at trial,” the motion said. “Specifically, the defendant insists that certain evidence be presented to the jury, certain witnesses be subpoenaed to trial and certain theories advanced in support of his defense.”
Kurtz’s strategy was different than Houston’s.
A hearing was held on Wednesday, and U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr. allowed Kurtz to withdraw as Houston’s attorney.
“The court finds that the trust in the attorney-client relationship has been irreparably broken to the extent that it prevents Mr. Kurtz from providing an adequate defense,” Shirley said in the order allowing Kurtz to withdraw.
Shirley appointed Michael McGovern to represent Houston.
“The court will substitute counsel once more in this case,” Shirley said.
“If the defendant chooses to reject new counsel for these same reasons, the court will be compelled to find that the public’s interest in prompt and efficient justice prevails.”
Houston is charged with 14 counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He faces up to 140 years in prison if convicted.
For months, he rejected the court’s attempts to appoint him an attorney and insisted on representing himself.
Then, less than three weeks before his July 16 trial date, he filed a motion asking for an attorney. That caused the trial to be postponed.
“History reveals that the defendant’s inability to work with appointed counsel is rooted in his erroneous beliefs that counsel are somehow tainted by this court’s appointment of them and that he directs counsel’s every action with regard to the case right down to the words counsel must use,” Shirley said.
“The defendant’s persistence in these erroneous views will ultimately be outweighed by the public’s interest in bringing this case to trial. However, this is not that day.”
Houston and his brother, Leon Houston, have long claimed they are victims of a vast conspiracy. In the past the brothers have sought to subpoena Shirley, U.S. Attorney William Killian, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and former President George W. Bush.