GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe filed a motion this week for a hearing to have Third District Court Judge Suzannah Robinson disqualified from a case involving sexual exploitation of children.
Erramouspe and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Micaela Lira appeared before Third District Court Judge Joseph Bluemel Monday presenting the argument that Robinson be disqualified from ruling in the case of Joshua Jae Ekstrom.
Ekstrom was arrested in March and charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of children, specifically possession of child pornography.
Lira testified that she and Ekstrom’s attorney, Dave Harmon, reached a plea agreement to drop the second and third counts in exchange for a guilty plea on the first count. Part of that agreement would require Ekstrom to spend 4-8 years in prison and register as a sex offender after his release from prison.
Lira said the signed plea agreement was filed in Robinson’s court, but both parties were later informed that the plea would not be accepted. At that point, Harmon requested a status conference with all the parties involved to discuss why the plea was rejected.
During the conference in June, Lira said Robinson informed both parties that she was not going to accept the plea agreement based on the information that she had been provided. Lira also testified that Robinson was provided with the typical verified information filed in a plea agreement.
Lira said she felt as though Robinson was giving her opinion about what the state should have charged and offered in the plea agreement. Lira said Robinson wanted to see lesser charges that didn’t require jail time or sex offender registration. Lira also claims Robinson said she was “appalled” that a deferral was not offered in this case. Harmon corroborated that Robinson said she expected to see a deferral in the case.
Separation of Power
Erramouspe argued that it’s not the duty of the judicial branch to direct the state on these matters calling it a “violation of the separation of powers.” He said those duties are the responsibility of his office, and that no one knows more about a case than the prosecution.
He noted that the separation of powers works because the judicial branch is not supposed to know about a case until it hears it. In this case, Erramouspe said Robinson was trying to influence Lira into changing the charge without reviewing all the evidence. Ekstrom waived his right to a jury trial after the status conference which Erramouspe called “a good move” knowing the way Robinson felt about the case and plea agreement.
Ekstrom has requested a bench trial which Robinson would preside over. The state must agree to a bench trial before proceeding which Erramouspe said is still pending
Erramouspe added that this is a case specific request, and not a blanket indictment of Robinson’s ability to judge a case. Bluemel said he would take the motion under advisement, however a decision has not been recorded at the time of this post.