Accused child molester tries to fire attorney
October 2, 2007
MINDEN – An accused child molester, expected to enter a plea Monday in a three-year-old lewdness case, told District Judge Michael Gibbons he had questions about his lawyer’s effectiveness.
James Ernest Hope was to be arraigned on a charge of lewdness with a child under 14 after he was accused in 2004 of fondling a 10-year-old Minden girl.
Gibbons delayed proceedings for a week after lawyer Derrick Lopez said his client had brought up the competency issue Monday morning right before the hearing and he had not had time to discuss Hope’s concerns.
The victim, now 13, and her mother, were set to testify against Hope on Sept. 21 before a preliminary hearing was waived in East Fork Justice Court.
Under an agreement with the district attorney’s office, if Hope pleads guilty and avoids trial, he faces life in prison with the possibility of parole in 10 years.
If the case goes to trial, prosecutors plan to add the enhancement of a prior conviction in Washington State in a similar offense for which Hope is serving life in prison.
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If convicted on the Douglas County charge, Hope would be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Gibbons urged Hope to work out any differences with Lopez.
“The law doesn’t say you and your attorney have to be best friends,” Gibbons said. “If you can’t work something out, you need to ask me for a different attorney or Mr. Lopez can make a motion to withdraw.”
Gibbons also brought up the fact that Hope does not have a lawyer to represent him in Carson City where he faces similar charges.
Lopez said Hope’s prior lawyer, John Oakes, had withdrawn.
Hope was returned to Douglas County Jail in July from Callam Bay Corrections Center in Washington where he is serving up to life in prison for felony child molestation in the first degree and gross misdemeanor communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
He pleaded guilty to the Washington charges Nov. 3.
Hope is charged in Douglas County with lewdness with a child under 14 stemming from an incident which occurred Sept. 19, 2004, while he was awaiting trial in Carson City on allegations he had molested two sisters who were 4 and 6.
According to court documents, the Minden girl told deputies that Hope made sexually suggestive comments and touched her inappropriately while her mother was in another room.
The girl ran to her mother who ordered Hope out of the house and contacted deputies. According to court documents, she had known Hope for two weeks.
Hope, a Carson City painting contractor and former police cadet at Western Nevada College, disappeared after Douglas County issued a warrant with $100,000 bail in September 2004.
He was arrested in Washington in September 2006 after fleeing from police there who wished to question him after a girl told her mother he molested her.
After the Douglas County charge is adjudicated, Hope is to be transferred to Carson City where he is facing four counts of lewdness with a minor under 14 and one count of sexual assault of a child under 14.
According to court documents, Hope met two of the three women on the Internet.
He is being held in Douglas County Jail without bail.