Correction: Regarding last week's story from Yates County Criminal Court, David Mashewke was never previously an Assistant Public Defender. He was a member of the Yates County Assigned Counsel Panel for indigent defendants in Family and Criminal Court cases.

In Yates County Criminal Court Tuesday, March 6, Judge Jason Lee Cook made clear his displeasure with the county’s former Public Defender, Edward Brockman, and the handling of recent cases by his office.

Brockman, 70, was not reappointed to the Public Defender position after being accused of groping a teenage female client in February 2016, and is still facing a charge of forcible touching  (class A misdemeanor) in Penn Yan Village Court. (See story on page 1)

Brockman’s Assistant Public Defender, Keith Lord, was twice passed over for the position by the County Legislature; first in favor of an outside candidate, then, following her withdrawal, in favor of fellow Assistant Public Defender Katie Martens-Henderson. After her appointment, Martens-Henderson appealed to the legislature for a salary increase for Lord, which was granted. According to sources in the courthouse, Lord then took two weeks vacation, and upon his return, placed a box of client files on Martens-Henderson’s desk and handed her a letter of resignation, effective immediately.

Finding herself without any assistants, Martens-Henderson then appointed David Mashewske, most recently a former Assistant District Attorney but previously a member of the Yates County Assigned Counsel Panel for indigent defendants in Family and Criminal Court cases.

The conflicts arising from that shift have resulted in many cases in the PD’s office having to be reassigned. In fact, the number of cases that have to be re-arraigned with new assigned counsels is a bit of déja vu from four years ago, when Mashewske moved from the Yates County Assigned Counsel Panel to the DA’s office during Valerie Gardner’s DA term.

One of the most significant cases impacted by the legal reshuffling is that of MORGAN C. ROGERS, 21, of Dundee, who was arrested in December, accused of selling oxycodone. She is charged with third degree criminal possession and third degree criminal sale of a controlled substance (class B felonies), and released on $5,000 Bail or $10,000 bond.

At the time, Rogers was represented by the Public Defender’s Office, but because of a potential conflict, they sent a message to Conflict Defender Tiffany Sorgen that she may have to take Roger’s case. But Sorgen heard nothing further, and Roger’s case was never transferred. It was only by luck of her being in court Tuesday, and the sparked memory of that brief mention in an email, that Sorgen stepped forward to take up Roger’s case. No one in the PD’s office ever contacted Sorgen, the DA, the new PD, or the court to arrange for a new attorney, thereby neglecting Roger’s constitutional right to legal representation. In effect, from December to last week Rogers has had no legal counsel while facing serious felony charges.

Always a stickler for moving cases forward in a timely manner, Judge Cook voiced his displeasure with Brockman by name and for the record, saying he would have appointed new counsel immediately had he been properly informed. Both Cook and District Attorney Todd Casella made clear that no blame attached to Martens-Henderson, and they expressed their understanding of the difficult position in which she has been placed.

Now represented by Sorgen, Rogers was re-arraigned, pleading not guilty. Her case was placed on the 45-day motion calendar, and with no priors, her release on bail was continued.