Convicted rapist Spencer Scarber and his attorney told a Fresno County Superior Court judge Thursday that they want to part ways because of growing mistrust, but Scarber's request for a new lawyer was denied.
Scarber's defense attorney, Antonio Alvarez, signed a declaration that cited a "breakdown in communication" with Scarber.
"There is an irreparable disagreement as to strategic decisions made during the course of the trial and as to the grounds to which a motion for a new trial should be brought," Alvarez wrote.
Alvarez said the decision was "mutual" between himself and Scarber.
Scarber, who fled to Mexico during his trial in December and was returned to Fresno last month, was found guilty in absentia of two counts of rape, robbery and burglary of a 35-year-old neighbor in Squaw Valley.
Even though Judge Edward Sarkisian denied Scarber's motion for a new attorney, his decision can be revisited, Alvarez said.
"At this point I am his attorney of record and I will work on the motion for new trial," he said. "I have to advocate for Spencer the best I can."
The case will face further delays if a new lawyer is named, but disagreements between Scarber and his attorney could provide fodder for an appeal, Alvarez said.
In a short statement before the judge, Scarber said he wanted a new lawyer because he felt Alvarez was not following his directions.
The rape case dates back to July 2011, when Scarber broke into a neighbor's house in Squaw Valley and raped her. His DNA, which was found on the victim, and a confession to detectives were the primary evidence in the case. Detectives said he wore a mask, threatened her with a knife and stole her cellphone.
Attorney Charles Magill, a potential replacement for Alvarez, said Alvarez didn't introduce evidence that would have supported Scarber's claim of innocence.
Magill said sheriff's detectives got Scarber's confession after a group of neighbors beat him up. He had a head injury, broken ribs and broken bones in his foot. As they drove him around, they told him they had dug a hole for him and would kill and bury him, Magill said.
He said sheriff's deputies stopped the group as they were riding in the foothills. Scarber's neighbors told deputies that he admitted to raping the woman.
Magill said the DNA evidence proves he had sex with the woman but does not prove that it was rape. He said if he is retained, he could write a motion for a new trial within 60 days.
Scarber faces 70 years in prison when he is sentenced next month, which is when a motion for retrial would be scheduled. If he had been convicted of all charges -- the jury found him innocent of one rape count -- he would have faced more than 100 years in prison.
Scarber's family members face charges alleging they helped him escape to Mexico. His father, Kyle Scarber, who is on administrative leave from his job as assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol's Fresno area office, mother Gail Scarber and sister Crystal Reynoso are free on bail.
Spencer Scarber also has been charged with sexual intercourse with a minor; no trial date has been set.
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