After three years of attorney swaps and attempts to argue his case pro se, accused international cocaine trafficker Gregory Sitzmann was told by U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman this morning that the days of delays on attorney-related issues were over.
Sitzmann was indicted (PDF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 7, 2008 on one count of international drug distribution, with an alleged operation spanning more than two decades and at least eight countries.
Since then, six attorneys have represented Sitzmann at different times, and Sitzmann has also tried to argue the case on his own, with an attorney on-hand to assist. His current court-appointed attorney, Thomas Abbenante, told Friedman this morning at a motions hearing that Sitzmann wanted another chance to argue pro se.
Friedman stopped Abbenante and told him that after three years of back and forth over attorney-related issues, he didn’t want to hear any such requests moving forward.
“No, he’s not going to proceed pro se. We’re done with that,” Friedman said, adding that Sitzmann had the option of formally appealing if he objected. “I’m not doing this anymore… Now we’re going to get to the merits of this case.”
Sitzmann’s previous attorneys have left the case for a variety of reasons, ranging from Sitzmann’s lack of trust combined with a pending judicial appointment – as in now-District of Columbia Superior Court Magistrate Judge Joseph Beshouri’s case – to potential conflicts of interest. Two Miami, Fla.-based attorneys, John Bergendahl and Richard Klugh, withdrew in April after it became clear that they might have to serve as witnesses about conversations they had with Sitzmann at the jailhouse.
In June, Sitzmann filed a motion to be reinstated as a pro se litigant, with Abbenante serving as stand-by counsel. That request was denied. Following his indictment in 2008, Sitzmann handled his case pro se with Beshouri as stand-by counsel, but Sitzmann had asked for a new stand-by counsel before Beshouri left for Superior Court, questioning Beshouri’s handling of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Eliopoulos is prosecuting the case.
Friedman said he plans to rule soon on a host of pending motions that were pushed back because of the attorney-related matters, including multiple motions to dismiss based on what Sitzmann has argued were pre-indictment delays and due process violations.