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Snags delay progress in cabin vandalism cases

Dec 12, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Incoming prosecutor Patrick LeBrun is being given extra time to prepare.

Cases against several young adults charged with breaking into and vandalizing cabins in Sinks Canyon are proceeding but have hit some rough spots.

Prosecutors have reached a plea agreement with one of the defendants, and he has agreed to testify against the others.

The attorney for one of his co-defendants at a Dec. 5 hearing said she has not had "adequate communications" with the Fremont County Attorney's Office and threatened to request the local prosecutors be disqualified from the case as a result.

Trials for three of the defendants were postponed, some because the newly elected chief prosecutor would take over soon before the trials were to start.

Four charged

All four adult defendants face charges of criminal entry and burglary and two counts of conspiracy to commit property destruction and defacement. Two minors were mentioned in an affidavit on the case, but information on any charges against juveniles would not be public.

At a Dec. 5 hearing, both sides in the case of one defendant, Shaun Weston Zgurich, acknowledged they reached a deal, but most details of it were not revealed as the hearing was

postponed in the middle of it. Zgurich was to change his plea in court that day, but he did not get a chance.

Deputy Fremont County attorney Tom Majdic asked for the delay.

"Victim Witness was not notified of the plea agreement," he said.

Majdic asked for a continuance so that program could solicit input from alleged victims on the proposed plea agreement.

The Victim Witness Program of the prosecutors office liaises with victims during their court case.

Zgurich's lawyer, Terry Martin, acknowledged part of his client's agreement was to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against his co-defendants if necessary. Agreeing with postponing the hearing would be in line with that commitment, he said.

District Court Judge Marvin L. Tyler agreed to hold off on Zgurich's hearing and postpone a trial in his case that had been set for Jan. 5.

Trials postponed

Also on Dec. 5, Tyler canceled trials for two of Zgurich's co-defendants, Michael William Vinich, and James Robert Webb, that had been scheduled for Jan. 5 to allow incoming county attorney Pat LeBrun time to prepare for the case.

"Because of this change in the County Attorney's Office, the new county attorney would essentially be starting trial essentially the same day he's sworn in," Tyler said at a hearing for Vinich.

The judge also suggested the delay would give both sides a chance to reach a plea agreement.

"I propose we vacate the trial set for Jan. 5 ... to give the parties some time to discuss a different resolution," Tyler said.

Vinich's lawyer Valerie Schoneberger said her client would not waive his right to a speedy trail, meaning his trial would have to begin by Jan. 27.

"The defense has had an issue with not having adequate communications with the Fremont County Attorney's Office," she said.

Prosecutors have not given Webb a firm offer of a plea agreement, Schoneberger said.

She would "request the court disqualify the Fremont County Attorney's Office if this office is not prepared to adequately prosecute this case.

Tyler said he would set a pre-trial conference for January, which would allow both sides several weeks to negotiate a plea deal, and if they did not, the case would go to trial.

At their hearings. Webb and Vinich were both granted unsecured bonds, but both would have to undergo drug and alcohol testing while out of jail.

On Oct. 24, the fourth adult defendant in the case, Maxine Lawson, had her trial postponed because she was entering a three-month treatment program.

Maximum penalties for the charges are 30.5 years in prison and $30,750 in fines. Officials said the four defendants and two Lander sisters born in 1996 and 1998 broke into on Sinks Canyon cabin on May 1 and another on May 5.

"It appeared as if a group of people broke into the homes and stayed for several hours partying and basically ransacking and destroying everything they could get their hands on," Fremont County Undersheriff Ryan Lee said in a press release. "We found shattered windows, holes in the walls, discharged fire extinguishers, broken dishes -- the interior of the homes and their contents were extensively destroyed."

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