A judge's decision this week to appoint a single attorney rather than two to represent former House Speaker Pete Kott at his retrial has led the sole attorney to seek to withdraw from the case.
In a motion filed Tuesday, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, who won Kott's appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said she's become such a specialist in appeals work that she would be ineffective as Kott's only attorney at trial.
While U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roberts or the trial judge, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick, could reject her bid to withdraw, it could open an avenue of appeal for Kott should he be convicted again -- defendants are entitled to competent counsel.
Kott, an Eagle River Republican, was convicted in 2007 of conspiracy, bribery and extortion and sentenced to six years in prison. But the 9th Circuit ordered a retrial because the government had failed to turn over evidence he could have used in his defense in his original trial.
At a hearing last week, McCloud asked Roberts to appoint a second attorney because of the complexity of the case and because of her lack of experience in trial work. She suggested another Seattle attorney, Peter Camiel, as co-counsel.
But Roberts turned her down and Sedwick rejected her request for a trial at the end of October, setting it for Aug. 8 instead. McCloud's motion to withdraw makes that date less certain.
McCloud said she would still like to handle pretrial motions for Kott. She suggested that Camiel or the Federal Public Defender in Alaska, Richard Curtner, be appointed for the trial itself.
But there were problems with both, she noted: Camiel couldn't try the case until December if he were working alone, she said, and Curtner may have a conflict of interest, depending on who federal prosecutors call as a witness against Kott.
She didn't explain the conflict, but Curtner and his office has represented a woman who could be a key character witness against Bill Allen, the alleged master briber in the FBI's investigation of corruption in Alaska. The woman, Bambi Tyree, has said that Bill Allen asked her to falsely swear that she didn't have sex with him as a minor. That evidence, known since 2004 by the Justice Department, wasn't shared with Kott before his trial.