November 25, 2014

Williston man alleges lawyer is racially biased

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Smith requests new public defender

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

A Williston man facing domestic assault charges requested a new public defender last week, alleging his lawyer is prejudiced.

Kaseen Smith, 31, alleged that his assigned lawyer, Harley G. Brown III, has provided insufficient counsel, is racially biased, and is “deliberately trying to sabotage” Smith’s case, according to a copy of his request. Brown also requested permission to withdraw as Smith’s lawyer since Smith made it clear he no longer wanted his assistance.

Smith pled not guilty this spring to charges of aggravated domestic assault, aggravated sexual assault, domestic assault, sexual assault and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer.

In a two-page, handwritten statement to the court, Smith wrote that Brown, who is white, “told me I am a black man living in a white state so therefore I’m screwed…. And another thing he compared me to O.J. Simpson as in winning his case. I have my own opinion but I am greatly offended.”

In Brown’s motion to withdraw from the case, he wrote that he and the defendant have “irreconcilable differences,” that the defendant believes he is biased and prejudiced and that he “cannot represent someone who misinterprets everything I say to him.”

Smith also alleged Brown is trying to “sabotage” his case because Brown has made no motions, did not reduce bail, and “doesn’t say anything in court unless I ask him to.”

Lawyers do not determine a defendant’s bail amount; judges do. Smith has been held without bail since Feb. 23 at Chittenden County Regional Correctional Facility.

Brown said after last week’s hearing that he doesn’t want to comment beyond his written motion to withdraw, except to say there are more than 2,000 pages of documents in the case to date. That amount of information takes a great deal of time to sift through.

At Smith’s last hearing in March, Smith expressed his desire that the case move faster. Brown said it was impossible to do so and prepare an effective defense given the mountain of evidence. The judge had asked Smith if he understood the predicament; Smith said yes, and that he also understood the case might move more slowly than he would like.

Brown had scheduled five depositions for Friday, May 18, so requested “prompt attention” to the request. Vermont District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith granted the request, noting a new lawyer should be assigned immediately.

Smith is next scheduled for a hearing Friday, June 1 at 1 p.m. Stephen H. Mackenzie is the defense lawyer listed on the District Court’s online calendar.

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