Attorneys expect delay in airmen trial


August 31, 2018

CLOVIS — It’s been more than seven months since three young men stationed at Cannon Air Force Base were arrested and charged with raping a colleague at a house party in Clovis. Their lawyers said Thursday in court that preparation for their joint trial might still take longer than the forecasted Oct. 15 start date, possibly bringing the case into the new year.

Since the trial is scheduled for five days and requires coordination with the schedules of three defense attorneys (in addition to prosecutors and a crowded court docket), the next available dates might not be until 2019, Judge Drew Tatum said during the pre-trial conference.

The courts will monitor progress in the coming weeks and likely approve a continuance closer to the original trial date if necessary, Tatum said, but until then they’re still going to aim for mid-October.

All three of the accused, each charged Jan. 27 with second-degree criminal sexual penetration, appeared in court Thursday with their attorneys.

Ben Herrmann, representing 25-year old Thomas Newton, said that some back-and-forth last month as to whether or not the cases would be severed put a hold on their progress in interviewing witnesses. The state last week withdrew its motion from July to sever the cases and the matter was cleared in court Thursday.

One of the accused, 19-year old Rahman Buchanan, was appointed a new attorney in June after the withdrawal the month before of his private counsel. Mark Earnest said in court that he’d enlisted an investigator to assist with the discovery process, which he anticipated would take more than six weeks from the time of Thursday’s hearing.

“Despite our best efforts, I don’t think we’re going to be properly prepared (by Oct. 15),” Earnest told the judge.

“We’re committed to moving forward with as much speed,” said Craig Acorn, representing 20-year old Isaiah Edley. “But I think we’re probably going to be moving for a continuance.”

Regardless of when it happens, Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover said he would request two jury pools for the trial, due to the publicity the case has generated.

There are 20 individuals on the state’s witness list and more could be added as defense attorneys proceed with their interviews. Acorn was going to interview the airmen's accuser Thursday afternoon, and court records show subpoenas returned this week on four individuals for interviews next month at the district attorney's office.


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