Public defender protests order to represent man accused of robbing drug dealer

Cary Ashby • Feb 6, 2013 at 2:39 PM

The public defender protested representing a man accused of robbing a suspected drug dealer.

Randy Soto, 21, of 23B Newton St., was arraigned Monday on one count of aggravated robbery. The first-degree felony, which is punishable by three to 11 years in prison, is in connection with a Nov. 18 incident at a Newton Terrace apartment.

"He is accused of robbing a drug dealer," Huron County Public Defender David Longo said in court.

Soto's charge comes with a firearm specification. That means the man is accused of using or brandishing a gun to commit the suspected offense and if convicted, will have three years added to his sentence.

Longo told Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway he "officially declines" to represent Soto because his speedy trial date is in three weeks. The attorney cited a heavy caseload of other felonies, which were scheduled earlier, and said preparing for Soto's case wouldn't give him enough time.

"We are under the same time restraint," Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff said.

Conway said since Huron County offers public defenders to defendants and Longo has three other attorneys to assist with the workload, there's no reason for his office not to represent Soto. The judge also reminded Longo he could file a motion to have Soto's trial date continued.

Court officials also addressed the defendant's criminal history before the judge set a $50,000 bond.

Conway asked specifically about a 2010 conviction for a second-degree felony. While prosecutors didn't answer directly, Soto told the judge the only time he "got in trouble" was when he served nine months behind bars for grand theft.

"His sister came to the office. She is being evicted because of his activities," Prosecutor Russell Leffler told the judge without elaborating.

Nobody was injured during the suspected robbery investigated by Norwalk Police Detective Sgt. Seth Fry.

One of the victims identified Soto during a photo line-up. Police have said the suspect originally came to the apartment for a drug-related purpose, but he "ended up robbing people" of less than $300.

"I didn't do this," Soto said in court Monday, prompting Conway to remind not to discuss the circumstances of the case.

Soto was arrested in early December. He is prohibited from having any contact with the three victims -- one of whom he reportedly knows -- if he posts a $50,000 bond. His trial is set for Feb. 26.

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