Judge Lee ponders house arrest for GSI defendant, courtroom clash over victim notification
Judge Gary Lee expressed annoyance Tuesday that there was no record of an attempt made to notify alleged victims at a bond reduction hearing for Terry Lee Albers, 62, of Douglas, until a few hours beforehand. Under the state’s Marsy’s Law, alleged victims have a right to be notified and to give input about such matters.
Albers, who is already on the state sex offender registry for an earlier offense, is charged with two counts of Class AA felony gross sexual imposition. These are crimes that allegedly occurred in 2008 for which he was not charged until March. He is currently in custody at the Ward County Jail.
On Tuesday, his defense attorney, Ashley Flagstad, asked the court to allow Albers to be released and to be placed on house arrest until the trial in January. Flagstad said Albers is in poor health and at high risk of complications if he contracts COVID-19.
Flagstad told the judge that she had notified the prosecution of her intent to seek a bond reduction hearing at the end of August and the bond hearing had been scheduled on Sept. 14.
Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Breezy Schmidt told the judge it is common practice for the office to attempt to contact alleged victims a short time before a hearing to get their input on whether bond should be lowered. Schmidt also said that two victim witness coordinators in the office are out on maternity leave.
Lee questioned why the prosecution would treat a AA felony case as it customarily does and would not have tried to notify the alleged victims earlier.
Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz then tried to speak and Lee told him he would not be allowed to address the court in the case since Schmidt was already handling the bond hearing. Schwarz whispered something to Schmidt, who then told the judge that Schwarz informed her that he had spoken with the alleged victims some time earlier and they had told him that they do not want Albers’ bond lowered. However, Schwarz had not made a notation in the file for the use of other prosecutors that he had spoken with the alleged victims himself. Flagstad said she also had not been notified of this. Lee then suggested that Schwarz would have to be put on the witness stand and testify to what the alleged victims told him, though it would be unusual for a prosecutor to testify at a bond hearing.
In the end, Schwarz did not testify. Lee decided that he needs more information about whether Albers would be able to pay in advance for the house arrest and whether an area company would do the monitoring and how much it would charge before he makes a decision.