Richards’ defense accuses state of ‘prosecutorial misconduct’ in response to motion for closed conflict hearing

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K. Rambo

The State of Iowa, by way the Story County Attorney, has requested a hearing to address what they see as potential conflicts of interest for public defenders Paul Rounds and Michelle Wolf, who represent Collin Daniel Richards.

The state has also requested the public, including the press, be barred from the hearing in a separate motion, both filed on Monday.

Rounds has represented a potential state witness, identified in the motions as “E.G.,” in cases in 2016 and 2018, according to the motion for conflict hearing filed by the Story County Attorney.

Rounds filed an objection to the motion for closed hearing on Tuesday, accusing the state of prosecutorial misconduct.

“Contrary to the State’s assertion, defense counsel will be arguing prosecutorial misconduct specifically that the State manufactured a conflict by seeking out E.G. in the Story County Jail and interviewing her without the benefit of counsel in direct violation of E.G.’s request to not be interviewed concerning any case without the presence of her defense counsel,” the objection states. “Defense counsel will be arresting that the Motion for Conflict Hearing is being used by the State to deny rather than ensure Mr. Richards’ right to zealous defense counsel.”

Richards also argued the state had not met the criteria to make the hearing private.

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds refuted Rounds’ claims of prosecutorial misconduct in an interview with the Iowa State Daily on Wednesday.

“That’s ridiculous and a common defense tactic,” Reynolds said, referencing cases in the past where she says Rounds has made similar allegations.

Reynolds said it is a pattern Rounds has shown and “that the court finds no merit in it.” Reynolds said she believes the court will reach a similar conclusion in this case.

The motion also states Rounds filed motions to withdraw himself from two ongoing cases when he was assigned to Richards’ defense, citing conflicts of interest.

“The State respectfully requests that the Court set a hearing to determine if the Defendant is willing to waive and potential conflict of interest that might arise from the representation of Attorney Paul Rounds and Michelle Wolf,” the motion says.

The state also filed a subsequent motion for a closed hearing on the matter, specifically targeting the press.

“The State requests that the Court close this hearing to members of the public as the right to a public hearing has not attached at this hearing; however, if the Court finds the right does attach, then the State would request that the court exclude members of the press only,” the motion states.

A motion for closed hearing will be held on Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. in the Story County Courthouse to determine if the conflict hearing will be closed. The conflict hearing will take place immediately after a ruling is made on closing the conflict hearing.

“Currently, the state’s witnesses are confidential — they’re filed in our trial information, which is a confidential document,” Reynolds said. “So, the public, at this point, isn’t privy to who those people are and in order to maintain the integrity of the case, and sense we’re going to be speaking about one of state’s witnesses which is confidential at this time, we’re requesting that it remains confidential.”

Collin Daniel Richards has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Celia Barquín Arozamena.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated, as of 2:35 p.m. on Wednesday with comment from Reynolds.