St. Francois County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte transferred the Washington County case against Michael Devlin this morning to Circuit Court Judge Sandy Martinez in response to Devlin’s attorney’s request for a change in judge.
Defendants may request one disqualification of judge without having to prove good cause, according to Washington County Prosecuting Attorney John Rupp.
After disqualifying himself, Pratte explained that Martinez will handle Devlin’s request for a change in venue. Devlin’s attorneys had planned to file a motion for a speedy trial this morning, but developments over the weekend delayed that decision, attorneys Ethan Corlija and Michael Kielty explained.
The decision to ask for a new judge was “trial strategy,” Kielty said, declining to explain further. Devlin’s first appearance in front of Martinez is scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 6.
The attorneys plan to pursue a motion to ensure Devlin’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. Once the motion is filed, the county would have to bring Devlin to trial with 180 days.
Neither attorney would discuss the developments over the weekend.
“In light of those developments, we didn’t think today was the most appropriate time to file,” Corlija said. “We plan to file in the near future, however.”
Washington County has the earliest claim to a trial against Devlin, Kielty said. However, the attorneys believe he would have a fairer trial in a larger jurisdiction such as St. Louis, St. Louis County or Jefferson County, which is why they asked for a change of venue, he added.
The attorneys said Devlin is taking an active role in his defense. Although there have been discussions of plea agreements, the attorneys would not discuss details of those conversations.
“Both sides will come out at trial,” Kielty told reporters.
Devlin was not expected to appear at the hearing in the Washington County Courthouse.
The Kirkwood man is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two young boys. The allegations by prosecutors involve Shawn Hornbeck, who resides in Washington County and Ben Ownby, who lives in Franklin County. Devlin also is accused of attempted murder in Washington County.
Both boys were found January 12 in Devlin’s Kirkwood apartment, several days after Ben disappeared near his home. The boys and their parents have gone public about the ordeal, which is why their names are used in news stories. Typically, victims’ names are not publicized without their permission.
On May 21, Devlin, 41, of Kirkwood, pleaded not guilty to the Washington County charges of kidnapping, armed criminal action, attempted forcible sodomy, attempted murder and three counts of forcible sodomy. He appeared via closed circuit television from the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and was not seen by the general public. His bond there is $3 million.
Devlin’s attorneys have said they want to ensure Devlin has a fair and impartial jury and they don’t believe that will be possible in Washington County. They indicated it is a highly emotional and highly publicized case and Devlin has been vilified in the media. They pointed out Devlin is innocent until he is tried or until he pleads guilty, adding the burden of proof for a grand jury indictment is much less than at a regular jury trial.
State and federal authorities have amassed about 2,000 pages of evidence that state and federal authorities have amassed against their client.
In Franklin County, Devlin is charged with kidnapping and armed criminal action, in connection with the kidnapping of Ben Ownby. Devlin has been arraigned there and the case was assigned to Circuit Court Judge Stanley Dale Williams after the local judges were disqualified.
In St. Louis County, Devlin has been charged with 69 counts of forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping.
He has also been indicted on federal charges. Four counts of the six-count federal indictment allege Devlin photographed and videotaped a minor engaged in sexually explicit acts between 2002 and this year. Two other counts allege he took the minor to Illinois and Arizona with the intent to engage in sexual assault.