Cuadra Attorney Seeks to Withdraw

JC Adams
LUZERNE COUNTY, Penn. — An attorney for homicide suspect Harlow Cuadra has filed a petition to withdraw as counsel from the capital murder case. An earlier request to withdraw had been denied by Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., who cited concern over further trial delays.

Cuadra, 27, and co-defendant Joseph Kerekes, 34, both escorts, gay adult producers and website entrepreneurs, are accused of murdering Cobra Video producer Bryan Kocis in January 2007 and setting fire to his Dallas Township, Penn. home. They will be tried together and face the death penalty.

Attorney Stephen Menn filed a “Petition to Withdraw as Conflict Counsel” on Wednesday, one hour before the courthouse closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to a newspaper account.

In his initial request, Menn cited “an intense county workload” that includes five additional homicide cases has kept him away from his private practice. He said the anticipated four to six weeks for “jury selection, trial and penalty phase” in the Cuadra-Kerekes case constituted economic hardship.

In denying that request, Judge Olszewski advised Menn against filing similar petitions. “You can make any motion you want,” he said. “My obligation is that fairness prevail over this trial and that this case be tried in a timely and competent manner.”

Menn’s departure could delay the trial another six months. “That’s not going to happen,” the judge said.

The trial had been delayed once from March 24 to Sept. 2 to allow defense attorneys more time to prepare, and postponed again to Jan. 5 when one attorney apiece from the Kererkes and Cuadra defense teams were dismissed because they both worked for the same law firm.

All are members of Luzerne County’s conflict counsel pool, which is a separate group of publicly funded attorneys assigned to cases when a defendant is unable to retain a private attorney and a public defender cannot be used because of a conflict of interest.