Attorney Asks To Drop Client Who Was Re-Arrested While Awaiting Two Trials

Brandon Lavardo Ellis {Photo courtesy Sierra Vista Police Department ]

A Sierra Vista man remains in the Cochise County jail on a no-bond order to await three trials in 2022, but who will be his attorney is set to be decided next month during a hearing on whether a legal defender can withdraw from the cases.
Brandon Lavardo Ellis was most recently arrested in October for drug offenses and domestic violence charges. At the time, he was out of custody awaiting trial for a September 2020 arrest involving drug and firearms charges and a July 2020 aggravated DUI case.

Joel Larson is a deputy legal defender for Cochise County who was appointed to represent Ellis, 40. But according to his recent motion, Larson is asking to withdraw from the three cases due to his working relationship with Ellis being “irretrievably broken” with “no prospect that it will improve.”

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Judge Timothy Dickerson has scheduled a Dec. 13 hearing on Larson’s motion. The decision could impact whether Ellis goes to trial three times next year as planned. It could also delay attempts by Daniel Akers, a prosecutor with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, to reach a non-trial resolution, also known as a plea deal.

According to court records, Ellis was released from state prison in October 2019 after serving time for aggravated assault and weapons misconduct by a prohibited possessor. Just two months later, the Sierra Vista Police Department received a tip about Ellis selling cocaine from a local apartment.

A months-long investigation ensued in cooperation with several federal agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Homeland Security Investigations. Ellis was arrested on a minor drug charge in early 2020, but detectives came to believe Ellis was also selling Oxoycodone from the same apartment.

A traffic stop in July 2020 led to Ellis’ arrest on suspicion of aggravated DUI. Formal charges were not filed at the time while the Cochise County Attorney’s Office waited on test results from the DPS crime lab.

In the meantime, several controlled drug buys were purportedly conducted between Ellis and a confidential informant. That led to a September 2020 search warrant for Ellis’ apartment and vehicles, during which 500 Oxycodone pills with a street value of $15,000. Also seized were a handgun, nearly 90 grams of cocaine, and $30,000 in cash were seized.

Ellis was arrested and later indicted by a Cochise County grand jury on five felonies, including Class 2 felonies for possession of cocaine and Oxycodone, and two weapons misconduct charges involving a 9mm handgun found in his apartment.
Bail was initially set at $50,000 cash-only bond but a few weeks later Ellis arranged for his pretrial release after the court modified the order $50,000, cash or secured. Then in July 2021, Ellis was finally indicted in connection to the July 2020 traffic stop.

The indictment alleges Ellis has two prior DUI convictions within the last 7 years, which bumps the two charges to Class 4 felonies.

Ellis remained out of custody despite the additional charge. But he was re-arrested Oct. 10 following a domestic violence assault. A justice of the peace ordered Ellis held without bond until a superior court judge could conduct a bail eligibility hearing.

Akers, the prosecutor, pushed to maintain the no-bail order during an Oct. 15 bail eligibility hearing. Ellis agreed to not challenge the order, and Dickerson was informed that a plea deal was still possible. But complicating the prospect of a plea deal anytime soon is Larson’s motion to withdraw. Dickerson must rule on the motion, and if granted, order a new attorney be assigned to the cases.

The judge did, however, reaffirm a May 2022 trial on the cocaine and weapons case, followed by an August 2022 trial on the DUI charges.

For now, Ellis is serving a 15-day jail sentence for a justice court case involving a conviction for driving without a valid license. Public records show he also owes more than $15,000 in court fines, fees, and restitution orders on several felony cases dating back to 2010.