Despite the objections of defense attorneys, a judge set a July 11 preliminary hearing for Darren Mack, who's charged with killing his wife and shooting the judge handling their divorce.
Mack's attorneys told Justice of the Peace Ed Dannan on Thursday
that they advised Mack not to acknowledge the criminal complaint
against him because of their motion seeking to bar all county
prosecutors and judges from any involvement in the case due to
alleged conflicts of interest.
Defense attorneys Scott Freeman and David Chesnoff argued the
district attorney's office was the incorrect agency to file the
complaint because of the alleged conflict.
But at the request of Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler,
Dannan set the date for the preliminary hearing.
Sattler noted that preliminary hearings are required to be set
within 15 days of a defendant's initial court appearance, which he
said was Monday.
Mack, 45, and his lawyers appeared Thursday via video conference
from the Washoe County Jail before Dannan for Mack's arraignment on
charges of murder and attempted murder.
Freeman filed the motion Wednesday seeking to keep county
prosecutors and judges from handling the case.
"We understand both motions are unprecedented for Reno, but
this case is unprecedented for Reno," Freeman said in an interview
at his law office on Wednesday.
"There is an atmosphere in this case that is unique to this
case," he told The Associated Press.
The two motions argue the case should be handled by outside
prosecutors because Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick is a longtime acquaintance of Mack, and that Mack's fate should be determined by judges outside the county partly because the sniper attack on Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who was handling the couple's divorce, occurred at the courthouse.
"We feel strongly the Washoe County District Attorney's Office
has a conflict of interest," Freeman said, adding that he
anticipates Gammick will be called as a witness at the trial.
"They would not voluntarily disqualify themselves so we've made
a motion to do so," he said.
As for the judges, Freeman said the shooting of Weller through
his third floor office window on June 12 "apparently had an effect
on the entire court," which went into lock down for several hours
"The judges have reported publicly their concerns for their
safety and about the security," he said.
Gammick, who said he has known Mack and his family for 15 to 20
years, has denied a conflict of interest. He said he was not
personally involved in the search for the former pawn shop owner,
and only became involved because Mack called him early last week.
Gammick said he talked with Mack by phone about a dozen times
last week before Mack surrendered on Friday. They also communicated
"I don't know where we would have a conflict of interest,"
Gammick said Wednesday.
Such conflicts occur most often in civil court, where an
ttorney may have represented one client "then moves to the other
side," he said.
"Of when a public defender represents someone, then comes into
our office as a prosecutor. They have attorney-client privileged
information that they can't really use to prosecute the case. I'm
not aware of any of that ever happening in this case," he told
Gammick said Mack had been "an acquaintance over the years."
"We're lucky if we have three or four good friends during our
entire life. I do not classify Darren as that. But we are
acquainted with each other and we have had a friendly relationship
over the years," he said.
Mack co-owned a pawn shop until 2005, when he turned over
control to his mother. He earned more than $500,000 a year and had
a net worth of $9.4 million as recently as 2004, according to court
Gammick said he worked with Mack as a local business owner on
protocols and policies for pawn shops and law enforcement agencies.
Mack also "was very helpful" doing work for the local Boys and
Girls Club, said Gammick, who is a board member for the club.
"Over the years we've had lunch a few times and had discussions
... to solve the world's problems," he said. "His mom Joan I've
"Darren Mack grew up here. He went all the way through school
here.... A lot of people know Darren Mack and who he is and what he
Mack is charged with murder in the stabbing of his wife, Charla,
and attempted murder and battery with a deadly weapon in the
same-day shooting of Weller, who is recovering in good condition.
Mack originally appeared before Justice of the Peace Ed Dannan
via video hookup on Monday, but Dannan delayed the hearing until
Thursday at Freeman's request.