Joey Dauben, the publisher of the now-defunct Ellis County Observer, finally got to see a court-appointed lawyer this week to help him fight the three felony counts of child sexual abuse that have kept him in the Navarro County Jail without legal advice for almost two months now.
Edward Jendrzey, whose office is in Waxahachie in Ellis County, received the court-ordered appointment Thursday, Feb. 16. Jendrzey accepted the case after Steve Keathley, a Corsicana attorney whose wife is the president of the Navarro County Bar Association, declined an appointment by District Court Judge James Lagomarsino to represent the journalist.
In a telephone interview today, Jendrzey said, “Yes, he knows I’m representing him,” when asked whether he had met with his new client, who reached out for help from the media this week in a handwritten letter from jail. When a defendant declares himself to be indigent and asks for a court-appointed attorney, that is supposed to occur within 72 hours. In the letter, Dauben also again claimed he is innocent of the charges.
Jendrzey said his first step in Dauben’s representation will be to conduct an independent investigation of the case to learn the circumstances and to attempt to get Dauben’s $200,000 bond set by Lagomarsino lowered. “I’ll be meeting with the prosecutor about that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben’s family and friends have been unable to raise the 10 percent (or $20,000) payment bond agencies typically charge to get a defendant released from jail.
Jendrzey said he would also be researching the issue of whether Dauben can get a fair trial in Navarro County in light of the publisher’s high-profile reputation as an unorthodox journalist. “If I determine that is the case I will take steps to address that,” Jendrzey said. Dauben has made numerous enemies, and many of his targets claim he has been unfair and reckless over the years in his pursuit of stories.
In a blog post on Frontburner this week, D Magazine publisher Wick Allison said Dauben’s confinement in jail without legal counsel for almost two months may raise issues about the fairness and competency of the Navarro County judicial system. Lagomarsino’s staff said Dauben’s request for a court-appointed attorney never reached the judge, and that Navarro County doesn’t have an indigent defense coordinator charged with the responsibility of making sure all jailed defendants have lawyers.
Jendzrey said he’ll consider what impact, if any, Dauben’s confinement without legal representation would have on the charges against his client.
Dauben’s arrest in December was widely reported by the Dallas media and all of the small newspapers in the counties south of Dallas. So far only the Waxahachie Light has followed up on Dauben’s story. The newspaper reported Jendzrey’s appointment as Dauben’s attorney, but it made no mention of the delay being unusual or inappropriate. It apparently borrowed heavily from a Corsicana Daily Sun report on Dauben’s arraignment, but made no mention of Dauben declaring he was indigent and filling out paperwork for a court-appointed lawyer, which was reported by the Corsicana newspaper.
Dauben,30, is accused of engaging in oral and anal sex with a 15-year-old teenager on a church trip in 2007. He has been in custody since his arrest Dec. 19 by the Texas Rangers, who investigated the allegations of the teenager, who is now 19. The publisher has claimed that the charges are part of a conspiracy being orchestrated against him by his enemies who wanted to stop him from working.