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Rocky Houston has an attorney in his federal criminal case.
Appointing him one on Monday wasn’t easy, however.
“If you want an attorney, I will be the one to appoint them,” U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr. said.
“I’m asking for a non-biased judge to appoint my attorney,” Houston responded.
“I am a non-biased judge,” Shirley said. “Either I appoint you a lawyer, or there isn’t a lawyer appointed for you.”
The back-and-forth continued before Houston eventually relented and agreed to accept Robert Kurtz as his attorney.
Moments later he changed his mind, complaining because Kurtz has a vacation scheduled for July 13-20.
“I have to have an attorney that’s ready to buckle down and start representing Mr. Houston from day one,” Houston said.
“I’ve been trying to accommodate you, and you resist me at every turn,” Shirley said. “You have a great lawyer sitting there, and you reject him because he’s going on vacation.”
Houston changed his mind again.
“I’ll have to take this man then, and go from there,” he said.
Shirley then rescheduled the trial from July 16 to Aug. 19 to give Kurtz time to prepare.
“Can you be ready by Aug. 19?” Shirley asked.
“I will be,” Kurtz responded.
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.
Houston filed a motion late last month asking that an attorney be appointed to represent him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings said he didn’t think the trial would last more than two days. Houston told Kurtz he thinks the trial could take up to four weeks. When Kurtz wouldn’t relay that message to Shirley, Houston became enraged and asked for another attorney.
“This man is ineffective,” Houston shouted. “I can’t work with this man.”
At one point the U.S. Marshals had to move in to ensure Houston didn’t get out of control.
“You wanted him to say four weeks?” Shirley asked.
“Absolutely,” Houston responded. “All he had to do was stand up and say judge, my client feels like this trial could last four weeks.”
“I’ve got ineffective assistance of counsel,” he continued. “I asked him to do a simple task.”
Shirley took Houston’s request for another lawyer under advisement and recessed court.
“I appointed you,” he told Kurtz. “I haven’t unappointed you yet.”
The entire episode left Jennings baffled.
“I don’t know whether to start getting ready for trial or not,” he said.
The court reconvened later in the day, and Houston’s request for another lawyer was denied.
The new trial date of Aug. 19 was also confirmed.
Whether Kurtz will stay on as Houston’s attorney remains to be seen.
Shirley has tried to appoint him an attorney numerous times throughout the case, but Houston has either declined or shown resistance.
Shirley tried to appoint Jonathan Moffatt in January, but Houston declined to even speak to Moffatt “due to conflicts of interest that exist between me and Mr. Moffatt right there,” he said.
Houston filed his motion asking for an attorney less than three weeks before the July 16 trial date.
“You filed this motion so late, I could deny it on that basis,” Shirley said. “I’m trying to help you.”