A hearing was held this morning, January 10, in the case of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a Houston truck driver accused of causing a massive crash on Interstate 70 near the Colorado Mills Parkway exit that killed four people on April 25, 2019. And while Judge Christopher Zenisek didn't push back the trial date, scheduled for May 1, he's almost certain to do so in the coming weeks.
Why? Aguilera-Mederos's attorney, Rob Corry, has removed himself from the case.
Reached by Westword via email, Corry noted that Zenisek "has imposed a gag order prohibiting attorneys from discussing the case with the press, so I have no comment at this time." However, he stated in his motion to withdraw from his work on behalf of Aguilera-Mederos that the trucker's inability to pay attorney fees to date could "potentially impinge on his constitutional right to an effective defense," as might "bad luck" that's put a negative spin on Corry's public reputation.
Corry had a string of arrests in 2019, culminating in his jailing last October for allegedly violating one of several protection orders against him.
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According to First Judicial District DA's Office spokesperson Pam Russell, a public defender spoke on behalf of Aguilera-Mederos at the hearing, which took place at 8:30 a.m. But even though Aguilera-Mederos has been designated as indigent, which would allow a lawyer to be appointed to represent him, the public defender said he's seeking to hire private counsel.
If Aguilera-Mederos has not reached an agreement with such an attorney by a February 14 status conference, a public defender will take over. In the meantime, Russell says, "The judge did not vacate the jury trial date. He pointed out that this needs to continue to move forward."
Nonetheless, either a private attorney or a public defender will need time to pull together a defense of Aguilera-Mederos following Corry's departure. That puts the May 1 trial date on exceedingly thin ice.
This post has been updated to incorporate the events at Aguilera-Mederos's status hearing.