Lawyers assigned to defendants

The use of a confidential informant by drug task force agents in a historic methamphetamine sweep last month has created numerous conflicts for the public defender's office.

At a hearing in Moffat County Court on Thursday for 14 of the 15 people charged with distributing meth, Judge Mary Lynne James told the defendants that the public defender would represent six of them.

For six other defendants, the public defender said there were too many conflicts and she couldn't represent them.

The other three have hired their own lawyers.

Local law enforcement officers and the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team rounded up 14 of the defendants Dec. 21 and 22 after a six-month investigation.

The 15th defendant, Sherry Nelson, 40, of Oak Creek, was arrested by Oak Creek police on Dec. 27. She was transferred to Moffat County Jail from Routt County Jail on Dec. 29.

Police say they have evidence that all 15 people sold drugs to undercover officers and informants.

The 15 defendants -- nine men and six women -- face felony charges of distributing meth and felony possession of meth.

The only defendant in the case who didn't appear in court Thursday was Julie McLeslie, 34, who is in Mesa County Jail on separate charges.

The judge on Thursday said that even for the six people public defender Sheryl Uhlmann will represent, there are conflicts of interest.

James told the defendants -- who appeared individually via videoconference from the Moffat County Jail -- that the police used a confidential informant during the investigation.

Uhlmann represented the informant in a previous case, James said.

Uhlmann has since withdrawn as the attorney for the informant, James said.

The defendants were given the option of having a different attorney assigned if they weren't comfortable with Uhlmann's conflict in the case, but all six accepted Uhlmann as their attorney.

It isn't unheard of for the court to have to appoint local lawyers in major drug cases, James said after the hearing. But there have only been a few cases in her 20 years on the bench when that many appointments were made.

James also told the defendants that she would not consider reducing the $50,000 bond in their cases until their preliminary hearings later this month.

Jonathan Herod, 42, is the only suspect of the 14 who has bonded out of jail. The remaining suspects still are in jail.

Because the 15 arrests came after an undercover investigation, arrest affidavits in the cases are sealed.

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