Everyone Else Ready for Trial, Man Accused of Child Rape Asks, and Gets, Delay and New Lawyer
FlaglerLive | September 19, 2016
It is usually lawyers who ask for delaying a trial. Not in this case. The prosecution, the defense, the clerks were all ready for John J. Schenone’s bench—or non-jury—trial this morning before Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman. So was the victim, now 12, nervous though she was, according to the prosecutor, to have to testify of the alleged sexual assaults Schenone put her through. A victim’s advocate had prepared a mauve tote bag of comfort items for her, a few snacks, mints, small packs of tissue paper. The bag sat on the front bench in the courtroom, before the victim arrived, then retreated to a separate room to wait so she wouldn’t have to unnecessarily see Schenone.
As soon as Foxman started the proceedings, Schenone asked to address the court. He went on at length, telling not too-coherent stories about incidents at the Flagler County jail, where he’s been held, incidents with another inmate, disenchantment with Regina Nunnally, his attorney, an instance when an inmate got violent with him, insults from other inmates, and so on.
Twice Foxman asked him what Schenone wanted him to do.
He wanted a new lawyer, and two to four weeks before going to trial. “I understand Mrs. Nunnally out her time into this and I appreciate that very much but there’s conflict of interest there, I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with having her represent me with the fashion that things have been happening so far,” Schenone said.
The inmate who’s been allegedly threatening him is James A. Taylor, a 36-year-old who is facing charges strikingly similar to those Schenone is facing—molesting an 11-year-old girl. Nunnally is representing Taylor, too. Taylor’s case is scheduled for trial in mid-October.
Nunnally at first didn’t respond to Schenone’s accusation (he called her “incompetent”). She sat next to him, possibly stunned at what she was hearing. She said she’d spent three hours with Schenone at the county jail Sunday to prepare for the trial. It was the first time he brought up the issue with Taylor. “I told him I’m not here to talk about J.T.,” she said, using Taylor’s initials. “I’m here to talk about your case.” Schenone had never written or called Nunnally to speak to her about the Taylor or the other matters he brought up today, with one exception: she knew he wasn’t happy with her handling of CD recordings of his conversations with the mother of the victim, conversations he had with her at the jail. The recordings showed video of those meetings, but no sound, which upset Schenone.
All else, Nunnally, was taken care of.
Prosecutor Christy Opsahl told the judge there was no reason for a delay. The Taylor case “has no relevance with this at all,” she said. Taylor isn’t testifying in Schenone’s case. “I don’t see any conflict of interest there.”
But after a sidebar between the judge and the two attorneys, Foxman, very reluctantly, decided to grant Schenone’s request for a delay and a new attorney, who will be appointed from outside the circuit under “regional conflict counsel” rules.
“The one thing I hate to see you do is,” Foxman told the defendant, “Miss Nunnally is one of the best trial lawyers I’ve ever seen, she’s so good at what she does, you’re making a mistake, in my opinion, but nonetheless, you articulated a legal reason that allows me to let her withdraw. So you’re taking your chances now. But you’re on your own with that. I will appoint you a lawyer no later than later today.”
Schenone, 33, of 44 Wellwater Drive in Palm Coast, nodded and thanked the judge as he sat shackled hand and feet in his orange prison garb, even though it was his trial day: when defendants appear for a jury trial, they’re allowed to appear in civilian clothes, without shackles, so as not to prejudice the jury. The rule does not apply in non-jury trial.
The whole case then re-starts from nearly zero. The next court appearance for Schenone will be on Nov. 2, for a pre-trial. He’ll have to remain at the county jail without bond.
“The whole process starts over again. I hate doing it,” Foxman said.
Schenone pressed his case. He asked that Nunnally pass her notes to the next attorney. The judge reminded him that she’s not required to pass her notes, only “discovery.” Schenone pressed again. The judge stopped him.
Schenone, who pleaded guilty in a misdemeanor domestic assault case nine years ago, faces two first-degree felony counts and one capital felony count from charges stemming from his alleged assaults of an 11-year-old girl, the daughter of his then-girlfriend. The assaults included alleged rapes and took place over several months. The prosecution has phone recordings of Schenone allegedly admitting to the assaults, but attempting to qualify them in many ways.