The California Supreme Court ordered the appeals court on Thursday to hear a petition from former Contra Costa County sex crimes prosecutor Michael Gressett, who is accused of raping a colleague in 2008, to have his former attorney Daniel Russo appointed to his case. Gressett, who is facing a 13-count indictment alleging that he raped and sodomized a colleague during a lunch break at his home in Martinez on May 8, 2008, had originally hired veteran defense attorneys Michael Cardoza and Daniel Russo to represent him, but in November he notified the court that he could no longer afford a private attorney. The public defender’s office couldn’t take the case because it had a conflict of interest, which meant that the case had to be sent to a county bar panel known as the Criminal Conflict Panel. The panel provides private defense attorneys to represent defendants when there are conflicts of interest in the public defender’s office. Conflict attorneys are paid for with taxpayers’ money. The panel selected Lafayette-based attorney Michael Kotin to represent Gressett, but Gressett said he would prefer to be represented by Russo, who is also a member of the conflict panel and could be appointed to represent Gressett at no cost to him. A Superior Court judge denied the request, so Gressett petitioned to have the matter heard by the state appeals court. The appeals court declined to hear the matter and it was sent on to the state Supreme Court. On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to hear the matter. Gressett was scheduled to be arraigned today on the indictment, but his arraignment was postponed until March 12. By then, the appeals court will likely have made a decision on whether to grant Gressett’s request to have Russo appointed to the case instead of Kotin. A date for a trial has not been set, and Gressett remains free on $1 million bail.
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