UKIAH, 4/14/22 — Leslie Adelman, the 69-year-old man charged with murder in the death of James Anderegg in a Ukiah parking lot last month, refused to appear in court this morning to enter his plea, claiming he has not met with his attorney — despite being in custody for more than two weeks.
“He said, ‘Fuck you, I haven’t seen my lawyer,’” a courthouse deputy explained for the record when Judge Keith Faulder asked what happened.
Adelman’s attorney Eric Dumars, with the alternate defender’s office, disputed his client’s claim in court and again in a phone call with The Mendocino Voice. The Voice has also requested access to records of Adelman’s visitors and phone calls at the Mendocino County Jail for more information.
Ukiah police allege that Adelman was walking away from Anderegg with a knife in his hand when officers got to the Wells Fargo on South State Street around 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 27. Anderegg died at the scene and Adelman has been in custody ever since. Investigators say it was some kind of dispute over stolen property, and dispatch logs show Anderegg was arrested nearby on suspicion of robbery two weeks earlier. The robbery charges appear to have been dropped, and Anderegg was released from jail on March 22.
Criminal defendants have a right to counsel (among other things) under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — but some defendants get better counsel than others. Or more of it, at least.
The public defender and the alternate defender, which represents the accused when the public defender cannot, are often saddled with Herculean caseloads through no fault of their own. Technical restraints imposed by video conferencing in court have further constrained the ability of court appointed attorneys to converse with their clients off record. In Adelmans’ case, those factors have raised apparent questions about whether the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights are being respected by the court. If not, the fix is likely to involve more money for more court-appointed lawyers and more communication with their clients.
Judge Faulder rescheduled Adelman’s plea entry for 9 a.m. April 21, and he’s been ordered to appear for that hearing. It remains to be seen whether Adelman’s concerns about adequate representation can be addressed in the next seven days, or whether the defendant will consent to attending his next hearing. It is not unusual for defendants to refuse to appear in court, but that frequently results in the issuance of arrest warrants, and Adelman is already in jail. Today’s situation in court could be accurately described as unusual.