Havasu man flees mid-trial before drug conviction
A Lake Havasu City man is a fugitive from justice after skipping out during the middle of trial before he was convicted last Friday.
Richard Fender, 61, failed to return to the courthouse following the lunch break, and a warrant for his arrest was issued after he was convicted of transportation and possession of dangerous drugs for sale late Friday afternoon.
Fender asked prosecutor Reed Weisberg if he would offer a better plea agreement Friday morning before the trial began. Weisberg said he wouldn’t accept anything less than a four year prison term to resolve his case through a plea agreement.
Fender then told Judge Billy Sipe he wasn’t satisfied with his attorney, Jon Gillenwater.
“We don’t see eye to eye on my defense,” Fender said. He said he obtained some advice from a retired lawyer who indicated that certain tasks should be performed and strategy pursued to give him a better shot at acquittal.
``I just don’t know what to do right now because I feel like my life is going downhill,” Fender said.
Judge Sipe told Fender it was too late to raise concerns about legal counsel the morning of trial. He advised Fender that he could raise those issues on appeal if he was convicted.
When trial began Weisberg told jurors it was a simple case resulting from an April 22, 2017 traffic stop during which nearly seven grams of methamphetamine was found in Fender’s Dodge Durango and more than $1,900 in cash on his person.
While Fender’s position is that he merely possessed the meth for personal consumption, Weisberg said the amount of drugs and cash seized were indicators of someone engaged in sales. Weisberg also told the jury that the arresting DPS officer spotted an incoming text message on Fender’s cell phone from a person who stated “I need white”, ostensibly a request to purchase meth.
Gillenwater argued that the state could not meet the necessary burden of proof to determine that Fender is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury disagreed, convicting Fender after less than an hour of deliberation.
Weisberg said Fender faces a 5-15 year prison term should he be located, arrested and returned for sentencing.