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People v. Sifuentes

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

July 11, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Ruben Jesus Sifuentes, Defendant-Appellant.

          Adams County District Court No. 16CR142 Honorable Thomas R. Ensor, Judge

          Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, William G. Kozeliski, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Law Offices of M. Colin Bresee, M. Colin Bresee, Denver, Colorado; The Blair Law Office, LLC, David Blair, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          RICHMAN, JUDGE

         ¶ 1 The court, sua sponte, having considered the briefs in this case orders that the case is remanded to the district court for the limited purposes of (1) determining whether defendant invoked his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice when he moved to continue; and, if so, (2) weighing the judicial efficiency and integrity factors articulated in People v. Brown, 2014 CO 25, ¶ 24, against the defendant's right to counsel of choice, which shall be done with all due speed.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Defendant, Ruben Jesus Sifuentes, was charged with first degree criminal trespass, aggravated sexual assault on a child, and sexual assault on a child. He was tried on the latter two charges, and the trial ended with a hung jury. In a separate proceeding, he pleaded guilty to second degree criminal trespass and the prosecution dismissed the first degree trespass charge.

         ¶ 3 Sifuentes was retried on the sex assault charges. Six days before his second trial, he asked for a continuance. His appointed attorney told the district court:

His family has been in touch with a private attorney that they would like to hire. My understanding is they have most of the retainers saved, there's just a very small amount of money, just 100 or couple hundred dollars, that needs to be saved to hire that private attorney. That is the attorney that he wants to represent him at the trial.

         The court, noting that (1) the case was "very old"; (2) "a lot of people on both sides" needed resolution; and (3) it had not heard from an attorney wanting to enter an appearance, denied the request.

         ¶ 4 Sifuentes then spoke for himself in the following exchange:

SIFUENTES: Can the attorneys show up on the trial date?
THE COURT: No, sir.
SIFUENTES: So I just have to go with the public defender's office?
THE COURT: At this point in time I'm not granting the motion to continue.
SIFUENTES: I don't want this - this is the representation I want - representation I want. I want the attorney I want to hire.
THE COURT: Well, you should have done that a long time ago. This case has been pending for more than a year.
SIFUENTES: Okay.

         ¶ 5 Sifuentes raised the issue again on the first day of trial. He told the district court that he was not happy with his public defender and that he thought there was a conflict with his representation because he did not agree with the attorney's tactical decisions. The court found that there was no conflict, noted that no other counsel was present, and stated that it would not continue the case. Sifuentes's choices were to represent himself or to proceed with appointed counsel.

         ¶ 6 On appeal, Sifuentes contends that the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to continue based entirely on expedience, without ...


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