I-64 shootings: Slade Woodson pleads-- for new attorney
Slade Allen Woodson was expected to arrive in court this morning to plead guilty to some or all of the 15 felony counts he racked up from a March 27 shooting spree that closed Interstate 64. Instead, he had a change of heart about his counsel after talking to an unidentified lawyer over the weekend.
"I want to ask for a new attorney," said a clean-shaven Woodson, 20, sitting beside his court-appointed attorney, Public Defender Jim Hingeley. "I don't feel I've had sufficient counseling."
Woodson mentioned not receiving documents he'd requested,and noted that the case will "determine the rest of my life."
Hingeley told Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins that it would be inappropriate to detail the things he and Woodson had discussed, but said, "I disagree with most of what Mr. Woodson says."
Hingeley told the court he found out Monday that Woodson had been in contact with another attorney, but he declined to identify the interloping lawyer.
On November 10 in Waynesboro, Woodson was sentenced to two years for firing into buildings, including one that was occupied, during a beer-fueled, orange Gremlin-driving rampage with 16-year-old Crozet teen Brandon Dawson.
"I made numerous trips to Middle River Jail," said Hingeley. "I counseled him extensively about this case. I made a large investment of my time," he added, which amounted to "very extensive work over many weeks." Hingeley has represented Woodson since he was arraigned eight months ago.
Judge Higgins asked Woodson whether he needed more time, "or is there a problem with the relationship?"
"I believe there is a problem with the relationship," said Woodson, who told the judge he felt like he was being prosecuted rather than defended by his lawyer. "I don't feel comfortable at all to put my life in his hands."
Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford told the court that Hingeley and his staff had spent hours in her office reviewing documents.
Higgins ruled that Hingeley is out, and she appointed Jessica Smith to represent Woodson, and a new trial date will be scheduled December 18.
Hingeley confirmed that Woodson was scheduled to plead guilty. As for the change in counsel, "It's certainly unusual," said Hingeley. "It doesn't happen a lot, and it happens more often in tough cases. This is a tough case."
Update December 5: A statement inaccurately attributed to Hingeley has been corrected in this version, as well as one that misstated which lawyer had not been to see Woodson in jail.