Judge orders public defender for homicide defendant free on $450,000 cash bail

2014-08-14T15:38:00Z 2014-08-15T00:33:07Z Judge orders public defender for homicide defendant free on $450,000 cash bailBy EDDIE GREGG egregg@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

After initially being denied a public defender, a homicide defendant free from jail on a $450,000 cash bond posted by his family will be appointed one, a Billings judge ruled Thursday.

In a hearing Thursday afternoon, District Judge Mary Jane McCalla Knisely ruled that the defendant, Richard Douglas Reinert Jr., is indigent and ordered the Billings Public Defender’s Office to assign him an attorney.

Reinert, 28, pleaded not guilty in January to deliberate homicide in the Dec. 21 shooting death of 25-year-old Jessica Stephenson.

Court documents, citing an audio recording and other evidence, say Reinert shot Stephenson multiple times at his home in the Heights as she called 911 to report a domestic disturbance.

Reinert said in the hearing Thursday that he is employed with an irrigation company in Bozeman, where he works 30-40 hours a week at $11 an hour, but that he and his family can not afford to hire a private attorney.

“They have no more money,” Reinert said of his parents.

Initially, Reinert was represented by Billings attorneys Vernon and Cammi Woodward. But they stopped representing him shortly after Reinert’s family posted his cash $450,000 bond in June, court records show.

A bond receipt indicates the bond was paid by Richard Douglas Reinert Sr., of Tallahassee, Fla.

The younger Reinert then applied for a public defender but was initially denied one.

“That catches our attention,” Regional Deputy Public Defender David Duke said Thursday of the $450,000 cash bail posted by Reinert’s family.

Representing himself in a court appearance last month, Reinert appealed the matter, arguing that his parents posting a $450,000 cash bail is “legally irrelevant” to his eligibility for a public defender.

Duke said that upon further review of the matter and after being provided with additional information from Reinert, it was determined that he does qualify for a public defender.

In a brief on the matter, Duke quotes state law as saying that defendants qualify for a public defender if their income is at or below 133 percent of the poverty line and they can’t afford a competent private attorney “without substantial hardship.”

After discussing the matter with Reinert and Duke, Knisely agreed and issued her ruling.

Reinert remains free from jail on several conditions, including that he wear a GPS monitor, pending a trial scheduled to start Nov. 3.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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