A former Garfield County public defender has been found guilty of felony charges of theft or attempted theft by extortion for demanding money, firearms and other forms of payment from indigent clients he was already being paid by taxpayers to defend.
Utah State Court records show a 6th District Court jury found John E. Hummel guilty of five felony counts on Friday night after nearly three hours of deliberation.
Hummel plans to appeal the verdict, his attorney, Gary Pendleton, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday evening.
Judge James R. Taylor set a March 15 sentencing date. Combined, the charges could net Hummel a punishment of up to 55 years in prison.
Prosecutors said that in 2008 and 2009, Hummel used his power and influence to extract payments from at least seven clients. In court papers, prosecutors said Hummel's victims claimed to be "naive to the system and how it works" and never would have agreed to the defense attorney's demands if they had known their rights.
Among the items Hummel received as payment for legal services were seven firearms, two 32-inch flat-screen televisions, two computers, an iPod, digital camera, video camera, Play Station 3, DVD player and more than $11,000 cash from seven indigent clients, court documents state.