CARROLL COUNTY, Ind. — The latest hearing in the case against accused killer Richard Allen was due to start at 9 a.m. in the third-floor courtroom of Carroll Circuit Court in Delphi today.
Allen is accused of the 2017 murders of Abby Williams and Libby German near the Monon High Bridge outside of Delphi.
Today’s hearing was to introduce Allen to his new defense team and set a new date for his trial next year.
Allen’s original defense team had other ideas.
At 8:59 a.m., the back door of the courtroom banged open and Bradley Rozzi and Andrew Baldwin strode quickly with purpose to the defense table before the bench and took over the space, setting their briefcases on the wooden tabletop, sitting down to face their opponent prosecutor and await the judge who objected to their continued presence in her courtroom and the new attorneys who would replace them by Richard Allen’s side.
And there they sat as the minutes ticked by before packed rows of media, spectators, law enforcement officers and the families of the two girls.
Rozzi and Baldwin both stopped to acknowledge Allen’s wife and mother seated closest to the courtroom door to the public hallway near the media as Baldwin assured the women, “The whole world is watching.”
Within minutes, Carroll County Prosecutor Nicholas McLeland left the courtroom only to reappear and confer with a sheriff’s deputy standing by in tactical gear as he pointed in the direction of the defense team before stepping outside again.
Seated next to the Allen family was Indianapolis attorney David Hennessy, representing the original defense team in its attempt to stay on the case.
Hennessy would occasionally confer with Baldwin and Rozzi who left for the back hallway where their current/former client was being held in shackles before his entrance into the courtroom.
At 9:34, the new defense co-counsels, Robert Scremin and William Lebrato, veteran attorneys handpicked by Judge Gull from her home court in Allen County to replace Baldwin and Rozzi to defend Allen, entered the courtroom, conferring briefly with Baldwin before taking seats just off the defense table.
Scremin exchanged pleasantries with Hennessy.
At 9:44, Judge Gull entered through an office door to the right of the bench and called the court to order and, a minute later, the jingle of ankle chains was heard in the back of the courtroom as the defendant, in a yellow jumpsuit, flanked by three Indiana Department of Correction officers, also in tactical gear, who accompanied him from his Westville Correctional Facility pre-trial detention cell.
Slowly Allen made his way to the defense table, having put on a bit more weight, adding a little color to his face and appearing more engaged with this hearing as opposed to his last public court appearance in the spring.
The judge called the roll of the defense attorneys as all answered in the affirmative before Rozzi announced to the Court that, “Mr. Allen has asked up to represent him.”
Late Monday afternoon, anticipating their pending dismissal, Rozzi and Baldwin filed Notices of Appearance with the Court, acting in pro bono fashion to continue Allen’s representation as private attorneys working for free.
Judge Gull referred back to the attorneys’ promises to step down made behind closed doors in her Fort Wayne chambers on Oct. 19, while another courtroom packed with observers waited for a delayed court hearing focused on Allen’s fate. A that meeting the judge confronted Baldwin and Rozzi with, “gross negligence,” and insisted upon their withdrawals from the case lest she make the finding in open court and read a prepared statement.
Today in Delphi, the attorneys told the court they wanted back on the job.
“You withdrew,” said the judge. “What’s changed?”
“You left us no choice,” Rozzi argued, calling their professed intention to withdraw a “strategic move to protect Richard Allen’s rights” to counsel while attempting to intervene in what it viewed as the court’s violation of their client’s due process. Once he and Baldwin were back on the case, the replacement public defenders, “should tap out,” and let the original team proceed with its defense, maintained Rozzi.
“Nothing’s changed,” said the judge.
“We didn’t act with gross negligence,” said Rozzi. “We’re just on a different page.”
Judge Gull turned to the prosecutor for his take on the defense team’s attempt to stay on board.
“I’m at a loss,” said McLeland who insisted Baldwin and Rozzi were indeed, “grossly negligent,” and then proceeded to list several alleged defense transgressions including two separate leaks of evidence, an aggressive statement arguing their client’s innocence, “lies” in the form of a motion to dismiss the search warrant used to search Allen’s house for incriminating evidence in the fall of last year and espousing a theory that cult worshippers may have played a role in the deaths of the girls.
“They are trying to push this in the media and try this in the public eye,” asserted McLeland, repeating the “gross negligence” allegation.
Then it was time for the judge to address the man accused of the murders.
“Mr. Allen, I understand you want them (Baldwin and Rozzi), but I have grave concerns,” she said. “I know what you want but cannot and will not allow them to represent you. I cannot allow that.”
The judge reiterated her determination of “gross negligence on behalf of the original defense team” and told Allen that Lobrato and Scremin would now defend him.
Allen did not speak, nor was offered the opportunity to do so, during the hearing.
Judge Gull then granted the motion by the new defense attorneys to continue the trial past its previously set Jan. 8, 2024, start date, and concluded by saying directly to Allen, “I’m sorry that this has happened.”
The then-former attorneys assured the court that they would be returning all the evidence in their possession to the prosecutor no later than the end of the week so that the boxes could be delivered to Lobrato and Scremin as they might begin building a defense for their reluctant client.
The judge said she intends to hold jury selection in Fort Wayne and set an Oct. 15, 2024, trial date, booking out two weeks on the court’s calendar.
A Frank’s Motion to dismiss the search warrant and another suppression motion, filed by the original defense lawyers, are still pending.
Baldwin then asked if their attorney might address the Court, and the judge agreed.
Hennessy argued that his clients were unprepared for what has been described as “an ambush” by the judge in her chambers on Oct. 19 regarding the allegations of the alleged theft of images of crucial crime scene evidence from Baldwin’s office that was then leaked to Delphi social media posters, and that if the attorneys had been allowed to present a defense on their own behalf that day nearly two weeks ago in Allen County, the Indiana Public Defenders Council as well as other officers of the court would be prepared to testify as to the professionalism of the pair, and that Judge Gull summarily dismissed the attorneys without a hearing.
“The summary ruling violates the Constitution and is unfair to Mr. Allen,” argued Hennessy.
Hennessy said his clients were guilty of no more than a “zealous” defense of their client and “good lawyering” and that their Frank’s Motion arguing to dismiss the evidence investigators claim links Allen to the murder scene was, “a work of art.”
Judge Gull interrupted Hennessy and said the issue was not the Frank’s Motion and was instead the lawyers’ dismissal and he was not to speak of the motion again.
Hennessy countered that the motion’s construction was an example of the competency of the defense team as opposed to the judge’s finding of their “gross negligence.”
Hennessy also argued that he was not allowed access to the private conference in the judge’s Fort Wayne chambers and could not address in real-time her allegations against the lawyers.
FOX59/CBS4 has submitted an Open Records Act request to the court seeking the audio recording of the discussion and ultimatum delivered behind closed doors.
“I didn’t expect to change your mind,” Hennessy said the judge.
Outside the courtroom, none of the participants spoke to the media save for Baldwin who rushed through a clutch of reporters with cameras and microphones.
“Journalism,” he said. “Now is the time for journalists to do their jobs.”
Presumably, he meant further inquiry into the legal precedent and practice that Judge Gull relied on to dismiss the original defense team.
Monday, a group of attorneys not affiliated with the case, led by a lawyer representing a major Indianapolis law firm, filed a Writ of Mandamus seeking an Indiana Supreme Court review of Judge Gull’s handling of the case specifically related to the publication of motions and other documents in the court’s docket.
The Supreme Court has instructed all parties to post briefs in the case by Nov. 9.
Four hours after leaving the courtroom and returning to Indianapolis, Hennessy filed a Withdrawal of Limited Appearance as Baldwin’s attorney, indicating that, “judicial overreach,” rendered his continued representation “moot.”
“The finding was erroneous,” said Hennessy.