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Joseph Thompson III maintains innocence on burglary, reckless endangerment charges

Joseph Thompson III, 27, maintained his innocence on Tuesday to charges that he broke into a garage in the 10th block of 16th Avenue SW on March 18 and fired several shots into an occupied residence.

Thompson had been set to change his plea to the charges, which include Class B felony burglary, five counts of Class C felony reckless endangerment, and Class C felony terrorizing.

However, when Judge Gary Lee asked Thompson if he is satisfied with his attorney, Thompson said no and claimed he has been misrepresented and his lawyer has not gone over in detail all the evidence the state has against him. Thompson said he feels like he is being pressured. He claims that one of the alleged victims in the case called his family and said she is being forced to testify at trial against him. Thompson also alleged that all of the reported victims in the case use drugs and he is drug-free with no significant criminal background.

Defense attorney Benjamin Migdal said Thompson has been provided with copies of all the state’s evidence against him and Migdal has met with Thompson at the jail several times. Migdal asked the judge for permission to withdraw as Thompson’s lawyer.

Thompson said he has been held in custody for five months and just wants to do the time and get the case over with. Judge Gary Lee said he could not accept a guilty plea from a man who maintains his innocence. However, Lee said Thompson would have to waive his right to a speedy trial. Thompson will be assigned a new public defender, but there is no way that a new lawyer will be able to prepare for trial within six days, said Lee. A jury trial in the case had been scheduled to start next week.

Lee gave permission for Migdal to withdraw as Thompson’s lawyer, canceled the jury trial and promised Thompson he will try to have a new trial scheduled as quickly as possible.

Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz then informed the judge on Tuesday that he plans to ask the court to declare Thompson a dangerous special offender because a weapon was used in the alleged crime and several people were placed at risk. Dangerous special offender status means the state can ask for a longer sentence upon conviction. Under normal circumstances, a Class B felony carries a maximum 10 year sentence and a C felony carries a maximum five year sentence. There would be a minimum mandatory sentence of at least four years for a B felony and at least two years for a C felony upon conviction because a weapon was used. Dangerous special offender status would enable the state’s attorney’s office to ask for double the sentence on each of the charges – 20 years instead of 10 for a Class B felony and 10 years instead of five years for each Class C felony. Schwarz said that his motion for dangerous special offender status could further delay the trial. Lee said it is the prerogative of the state’s attorney’s office to decide whether to file for special offender status.

Change of plea hearings had been scheduled for Thompson on other occasions and then canceled after Thompson changed his mind.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the court, Thompson went to the home because he believed one of the occupants of the residence had burglarized his home while Thompson was out of town. Three adults and two children were in the home at the time the shots were fired, but no one was injured.

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