Hugh Wade is going to trial - with no lawyer at all.
The suspected con artist whose check-fraud trial has been delayed for almost two years as he hires and fires lawyers has forfeited his right to counsel, two city Circuit Court judges decided yesterday.
Wade, 57, will be defending himself this morning when he helps select a jury.
The man with a 15-year history of counterfeiting convictions is charged with 19 counts of forgery and fraud and one count of heroin possession. Wade could face a possible 154 years in prison if convicted, but he has repeatedly rejected prosecutors' plea offer of a maximum of 15 years.
"They want their pound of flesh, and I'm not giving it to them," Wade said in court yesterday to explain why he wouldn't accept the plea offer.
Yesterday, on Wade's seventh scheduled trial date, a third lawyer was excused from the case. Judge John M. Glynn said he was left with no choice: "We're trying this case, and I find that you've waived your right to a lawyer by your conduct."
Glynn also reiterated his belief that Wade was exploiting "crevices in the law" as he tried to delay his case and possibly create grounds for appeal if he is convicted.
Wade denied that he was trying to avoid trial by forcing out his lawyers.
Wade's first attorney, a public defender, was removed from the case in August 2003, and Glynn said the public defender's office has refused to assign him any other lawyers.
Richard S. Miller then took the case, but he asked to be removed from it last spring after Wade protested in a motion to Glynn that "there is a total breakdown in communication" between lawyer and client.
His latest attorney, Marshall T. Henslee, said he could no longer represent his client because Wade had made two formal complaints against him - one has been dismissed as being without merit, the other is pending.
Glynn, who is presiding over a murder trial this week, sent the lawyerless Wade to Judge Allen L. Schwait's courtroom yesterday morning.
Wade looked dejected and asked to approach the judge. In the bench conference, Wade could be heard saying that he is "too depressed and too distraught" to try his own case.
"I'm not capable of representing myself," he said again later during the pretrial motions.
Schwait, who denied all of Wade's motions, told him to be ready to try the case this morning.
"You have a right to discharge your lawyer," the judge said. "But you have no right to disrupt the judicial process."