State forces defense’s hand in Fort continuation
SALINE CO.—State’s Attorney Mike Henshaw lay the progression of Todd Fort’s criminal cases—or lack thereof—squarely at the feet of his defense attorney Bryan Drew this morning in Saline County Circuit Court.
Fort, appearing in much warmer jail togs today as opposed to the cool duds he’s been sporting in most pics since his arrest last July (and rearrest in September), was first up this morning, with Judge Walden Morris calling the case only 18 minutes late instead of the usual half-hour.
Fort is the former Saline County chief deputy and Harrisburg School District school board president who is charged with five counts of Criminal Sexual Assault and five of Official Misconduct in connection with that assault of a 17-year-old female intern working at the sheriff’s department in Harrisburg. He was arrested July 20 after an incident involving the girl’s father, wherein the father chased the two, at times reaching speeds in excess of 80 mph in Fort’s police squad, through the streets of the ‘burg. He was held until he bonded in late August, but was later rearrested Sept. 22 when he violated the terms of his bond Sept. 10 and 22. He’s been held at the Jackson County Jail in Murphysboro since that time.
For the most part, today’s hearing was just tidying up of things prior to jury trial.
However, it doesn’t look like it’s going to move to a jury trial anytime soon.
While, as Drew noted, all the discovery and DNA results are in, he and his client are “wanting to hire experts” and Fort “is not in a position right now to hire them.”
“There are DNA experts we want to hire,” Drew said, “and there are computers involved, with messaging on them, and we’re seeking experts trying to discover the origin of some of the messages.”
(Apparently Drew doesn’t understand the specificity of computers, Facebook, and Facebook’s servers where transfers of messages, even if deleted on a PC, stay for all time an posterity, and will no doubt track messages right back to Hot Toddy….but if that’s the way he wants it, he evidently just needs to find out the hard way).
Drew said he anticipated 30-60 days to locate experts to look at the evidence, and because Fort hasn’t yet received his negotiated severance pay check finalized more than a month and a half ago (we don’t know the backstory on this, but we damned sure are going to find out), Fort “can’t hire anyone until the middle of February” because that’s when he anticipates the check will come through, and that’s the only money Fort has.
Fort’s house was recently the subject of foreclosure action; it will likely come up for a sheriff’s sale pretty soon.
Henshaw told the judge that the state believed they have turned in all discovery required of them, and that “we are in the process of negotiating our own expert witness” in a particular field, and when that expert is secured, all info will be turned over to the defense.
“We’ve received nothing from the defense,” Henshaw advised the judge. “We are asking for the defense to turn over their discovery.”
Drew didn’t have anything to say to that, other than “We don’t know who their ‘expert’ is or what it’s about,” and the judge proceeded, asking Drew what he suggested for a trial date.
Henshaw filled in the silence.
“We don’t know where we are on the speedy trial,” he told Morris. “But we will be ready any time to try the case.”
Henshaw continued: “I’m asking the defense to set a trial date with the understanding of who is responsible for the speedy trial clock. He told me this morning he would.”
Drew looked a little stymied.
“We can,” he hedged, “but I don’t know where we are with out experts.”
“I’m going to give you an opportunity to figure that out,” Morris said, peering at Drew over the top of his glasses.
Drew conferred with Fort briefly, then turned back to the judge and offered May 4.
With a little bit of notation, the judge called that the jury trial date, with all discovery due by March 18, and in the event there are motions to be argued, a date for that of April 8.
The move was a smooth one: with Drew calling the date, the speedy trial delay (120 days for a person held in custody on any charges) is attributed to the defense and can’t be held against the state. Therefore, if they go over the 120 days, the defense can’t pull out the “I had a 120-day window to have a trial and YOU didn’t do it!!” whine like many in Richland County, of late, have been getting charges dismissed over.
More in the print version, on stands early in February (02.09.11); be watching for it, there are things developing in the Fort case that may come out by that time!
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