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JIMMY HUGHES PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO THE ALVAREZ TRIPLE EXECUTION. 
LAWYERS RENE SOTORRIO AND STEVE HARMON WILL DEFEND HIM by Kathryn Joanne Dixon 12/16/09

Rev. James "Jimmy" Hughes pled not guilty Tuesday to four charges of murder regarding Fred Alvarez, Ralph Boger and Patty Castro.  Alvarez and his friends were found dead in Alvarez's home in Rancho Mirage in 1981.  Hughes, appearing in Riverside Superior court in Indio, waived reading of the charges against him and waived time for the preliminary hearing. He appeared in court with his attorneys, first chair Rena A. Sotorrio and second chair Steve L. Harmon.

Judge Dale R. Wells set a felony settlement conference on April 9, 2010, 1:30, in department 3-P.  Although the conference is termed a "settlement conference", it is, in fact, a hearing to set the date of the preliminary hearing and any other matters.  Hughes has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit the murders, a violation of Penal Code 182(A)(1)  and three counts of murder, violations of  187(A) regarding each of the three victims.  These three counts carry an enhancements as serious felonies pursuant to PC 1192.7(c)

The conspiracy to commit murder charge against Hughes alleges that on June 27, 1981, he conspired with John Philip Nichols, John Paul Nichols, Glen Heggstad and other unidentified persons to commit the murders.  It is alleged that the object of the conspiracy "was to prevent Fred Alvarez from exposing illegal activities of John Philip Nichols, occurring at the Cabazon Indian Reservation".

John Paul Nichols and Glen Heggstad, although named as conspirators to commit murder, have not been arrested.  Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy has not explained their legal status to the public.  John Phillip Nichols died in 2001. The illegal activities of John Philip Nichols occurring on the reservation have yet not been defined publicly by Murphy.  The defendant's attorneys acknowledged that they received discovery documents from Murphy.

Hughes was a tribal security officer for the Cabazon's and Alvarez was former vice-chairman and former head of security of the tribe.  John Phillip Nichols,  was a "consultant" to the Cabazon Indians. Read his resume.  His son is John Paul Nichols. 

Hughes, 52, was arrested in Miami while on a plane ready to take off for Honduras, where he has been a preacher for many years.  There is no allegation in the complaint that he fled prosecution or hid  from it since the murders.  He testified before a grand jury which investigated the murders in 1985 and did not return with a bill of indictment.

The judge set bail and $1 million conditional on Hugh's surrendering his passport.  Deputy Attorney General Michael Murphy did not object to this bail amount.

Hughes's attorney Steven L. Harmon, is a prominent Riverside County defense lawyer who has practiced criminal defense, in both federal and state arenas, for over thirty years.  He teaches at the National Criminal Defense College in Macon Georgia, the Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy in San Diego, and at the Death Penalty Colleges held at the University of Santa Clara Law School and the University of Michigan School of Law.  Harmon will be second chair to Sotorrio whose office is in Miami Florida. 

Sotorrio, born in Havana, practices criminal law and appeals in federal and state courts, business law and international law.   He is the Chairman of the Advocacy Subcommittee of the ABA's Florida Regional White Collar Crime Subcommittee.  He has been an instructor for the pilot court program for the Harvard Law School Center for Criminal Justice in Guatemala City.  He has also lectured at ABA conferences in Santiago de Chile and San Juan de Puerto Rico. 

The Riverside County Court has published the following minutes regarding this hearing:

Case INF066719 Defendant 754056 HUGHES, JAMES

Action: Felony Incustody Arraignment   Date: 12/15/2009   Time: 1:30 PM
  Division: 3P Hearing Status: DISPOSED

HONORABLE DALE R WELLS PRESIDING.
COURTROOM ASSISTANT: DLR-D. RUBALCAVA
COURT REPORTER: JG-J. GIMINEZ
PEOPLE REPRESENTED BY DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
M. MURPHY.
DEFENSE REPRESENTED BY PVT R. SOTORRIO/
PVT S. HARMON.
EFENDANT PRESENT.
DISCOVERY PROVIDED TO DEFENSE COUNSEL.
DEFENSE COUNSEL ACKNOWLEDGES RECEIPT OF DISCOVERY.
DEFENDANT ARRAIGNED.
DEFENDANT WAIVES READING OF THE COMPLAINT/INFORMATION.
COUNSEL STIPULATES TO ADVISEMENT OF RIGHTS.
PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO ALL COUNTS.
DEFENDANT DENIES ENHANCEMENT(S).
DEFENDANT WAIVES 60 DAY RULE.
BAIL SET IN AMOUNT OF $1000000.00.
COURT ORDERS DEFENDANT TO SURRENDER PASSPORT
TO THE JAIL IF BAIL IS POSTED.
DEFENDANT ORDERED TO RETURN ON ANY AND ALL FUTURE HEARING DATES.
REMAINS REMANDED TO CUSTODY OF RIVERSIDE SHERIFF.
MINUTE ORDER PRINTED TO INDIO JAIL.
SAVE MINUTE ORDER TO CASE
MINUTE ORDER OF COURT PROCEEDING

 

Kate Dixon © December 16, 2009

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