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Judge OKs attorney change in Martens case

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Fabian Gonzales awaits a hearing before Judge Charles Brown in state District Court on Monday. Gonzales is accused of child abuse resulting in death and lesser crimes in connection to the killing of 10-year-old Victoria Martens. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque judge has approved Fabian Gonzales’ request to switch attorneys just weeks ahead of his trial in the death of a 10-year-old girl.

“I don’t want to hear a complaint later that your attorneys didn’t have … the time to prepare for the case and that somehow caused you any prejudice,” said state District Court Judge Charles Brown on Monday.

Gonzales, who is facing charges in the Victoria Martens case, agreed that he would waive that claim.

The 33-year-old is accused of child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence, and prosecutors say in recent court filings that he “participated in the dismemberment, mutilation and concealment of the victim’s body.” He had been charged with murder and rape, but prosecutors dismissed those counts after announcing that he was not at the home at the time of Victoria’s August 2016 killing.

Before making his ruling, Brown said that defendants have a right to counsel, but they don’t necessarily have a right to the lawyer of their choice.

“We’re less than six weeks away from trial,” Brown said. “This case has been pending for what, two years now? Seems like a lifetime.”

Tom Clark, a contract public defense attorney who has been representing Gonzales in the case, said he would turn over multiple boxes of case materials to Steve Aarons as soon as possible.

Aarons said he has already set to work reviewing what materials he has and on Thursday, he filed a motion seeking to dismiss the child abuse resulting in death charge. He argued that Gonzales had “no legal duty of care as a custodian of the child.”

Gonzales had been dating Victoria’s mother for a short period of time before the girl was killed. His cousin, Jessica Kelley and an unidentified man whose DNA was found on Victoria’s body, are both facing murder charges.

“The prosecution seeks to attach criminal liability upon defendant for either allowing Ms. Martens to leave the child with Ms. Kelley, a violent person, or for leaving the child with her before a drug dealer entered into the residence and killed the child,” Aarons wrote.

The District Attorney’s Office has released very little information about the unidentified man.

Aarons said during Monday’s hearing that plea negotiations with Kelley are ongoing. And prosecutors are expected to file a bill of particulars detailing their allegations against Gonzales by the end of the week.

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