What began as a simple arraignment in Lincoln County Court Thursday turned into a lengthy discussion, as defendant James Vancura quoted law, disagreed with his attorney and questioned the charges against him.
Vancura faces two charges of tampering with witnesses in a case against him of making terroristic threats, first-degree false imprisonment and possession of a deadly weapon by convicted felon.
A woman who told police on March 11 that Vancura had a handgun, kept her from leaving the house and threatened to harm her. The house is on a back lot on East 15th, with an entrance on 14th.
While those charges will be heard in district court, Vancura appeared Thursday on video in county court for tampering with witnesses.
Defense attorney Kent Florom told Judge Michael Piccolo that the underlying charges are set for trial on June 9. Noting that Vancura’s bond is set at $125,000, he said his client is willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing on the two charges of tampering.
But Vancura interrupted and said “Before we do that, you know, I am not sure that I want to… the original case they have nothing against me besides hearsay.”
Vancura then cited state statute 27.301 from a book that he held. The statute is about the burden of proof regarding presumptions in the early stages of prosecution.
Vancura said that law says “presumptions could not be made on presumptions alone,” which is an incorrect reading of the statute.
“At a preliminary hearing, they can, James,” Florom corrected him. “I talked to you about this yesterday.”
“I understand that!“ Vancura said, adding that the police and attorneys have mishandled his case. He said that he never tampered with witnesses.
“OK, hang on, hang on, this isn't the time or place,” Florom said. “You can either waive it (your right to a preliminary hearing) or we can set it (preliminary hearing) up for a contested and come back (to court) then, it really makes…..it’s your call.”
Vancura questioned what his lawyer and the county attorney were doing. Florom made another effort to focus his client on the arraignment and told him to either waive the preliminary hearing as they had discussed, or go to a contested hearing, to let the judge hear the evidence and see if he binds it over to district court.
Florom said it was his opinion that a contested preliminary hearing would just delay the inevitable process.
“It’s your call,” he said. “If you don't want to waive the preliminary hearing, we won't waive it.” he said.
"If I waive it, can they have the bond run concurrent?" Vancura asked.
"Yes,” Florom said. “So, do you want to waive it?"
“Yeah I guess,” Vancura said.
Piccolo then read the charges, explained Vancura’s rights and asked again if he wanted to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
“I guess,” Vancura said, but added, “My lawyer isn't doing what I want him to do.”
After more bickering and complaining, Vancura agreed to waive rights to a preliminary hearing on both charges and the charges were bound over to district court.
Florom asked that any bond on the tampering charges run concurrently with the $125,000 bond.
The judge agreed. He set bond at $25,000 on each tampering charge, but ordered them to be concurrent with the previous bond.