Income from sale of restaurant may have led Cabrera to lose free attorney
Fredy Argueta Cabrera, the 39-year-old restaurant owner who stands accused of wounding his step-daughter and killing her boyfriend in a late July shooting in Glenwood Springs, has swapped his free public defender for two private attorneys who will represent him as he battles charges of first-degree murder and first-degree assault.
Those attorneys, Colleen Scissors of Basalt and Kathy Goudy of Carbondale, made their first court appearance on Cabrera’s behalf on Thursday morning in Glenwood Springs, where Scissors confirmed that Cabrera had hired them after he was deemed too wealthy by the court to continue using a free public defender.
“Evidently [the judge] ruled that he was ineligible for a public defender, and signed an order for substitution of council,” Scissors said, noting that she had barely begun to familiarize herself with Cabrera’s case. The judge’s order was signed on Thursday.
Exactly what changed about Cabrera’s assets remains unconfirmed, but on Thursday his wife Vilma Cabrera said she had sold the Glenwood Springs branch of the El Horizonte restaurant that Cabrera owns, and that the resulting income had likely pushed Cabrera’s net worth out of the “indigent” category and disqualified him for free legal representation.
“I sold the restaurant to make some income,” she said. “I didn’t know this would happen.”
From the time of his arrest on the afternoon of Aug. 1 until Thursday morning, Cabrera had been represented by Glenwood Springs public defender Tina Fang. In an August court filing, Glenwood Springs-based defense attorney and former public defender Greg Greer estimated that the legal fees associated with defending a capital murder case like Cabrera’s could run as high as $450,000.
Until Thursday, a preliminary proof of evidence hearing in Cabrera’s case had been scheduled for Jan. 13, but in court on Thursday Cabrera’s new attorneys said they would need extra time to review the 3,500-plus pages of evidence in his case.
“We have not even seen discovery yet,” Goudy told Judge Denise Lynch, referring to the evidence turned over to her and Scissors by the prosecution. “I think we will need a month to catch up.”
Deputy District Attorney Scott Turner, who is prosecuting Cabrera, said he understood that Cabrera’s new defense team needs time to study up on the case. Still, he voiced his displeasure with the continued delays.
“For the record we would object,” Turner said. “We are disappointed that this case is not moving forward at a quick pace.”
Judge Denise Lynch concurred, but set the preliminary hearing for Feb. 6, giving Cabrera’s defense team an extra three weeks to prepare.
“I’m not going to allow the substitution to drag this case on,” Lynch told Goudy. “You guys need to get up to speed quickly.”
Goudy said she hoped that room remained in Cabrera’s case for discussion of a plea bargain with the DA.
Lynch said she hoped that plea discussions could happen between now and Jan. 16, when Cabrera will be back in court for an update hearing.
If convicted of first-degree murder at trial, Cabrera could face life imprisonment or the death penalty. His accompanying charge of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon carries a sentence of 10 to 24 years in prison.
Cabrera was taken into custody last summer following a 15-hour manhunt during which he allegedly eluded scores of police officers and managed to escape to Mesa County, prior to turning himself in. The episode began with a shooting late on the night of July 31 at an apartment complex south of Glenwood Springs. Cabrera’s stepdaughter Leydy Trejo, 18, told police that a shooter had ambushed her and her boyfriend Douglas Menjivar, 21, as they approached the apartment where they were staying with friends.
During the shooting, Trejo sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was airlifted to a Denver hospital for emergency surgery. Menjivar died of his wounds en route to Valley View Hospital, according to a friend who rode with him in the ambulance.
After the shooting, Trejo identified Cabrera to police as the shooter, according to Cabrera’s arrest warrant affidavit.
Since his arrest, Cabrera’s list of assets has raised questions about his “indigent” status and whether he should be entitled to a free court-appointed lawyer. Cabrera still owns a branch of El Horizonte located in Carbondale, along with a copy and print shop next door. He also listed two homes and several automobiles on his initial application for a free public defender.
Still, Judge Lynch ruled in August that selling those assets wouldn’t generate enough cash to cover Cabrera’s legal fees.
In recent weeks, something appears to have changed her mind.