A judge had to set bond for a man accused of molesting boys for the last few decades, because the Cochise County Public Defender’s Office still had not appointed an attorney to the defendant’s case.
James Dixon, 59, had been arrested a week ago by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office on several counts of child molestation, continuous sexual abuse and sexual conduct with a minor, among other violations.
It was revealed at a bail review hearing Monday that at least three males who investigators said were victimized by the Tombstone man, are mentioned in the indictment against Dixon. The latter, said assistant prosecutor Michael Powell, had been a little league coach and a Boys Scout master who was “seen around town” with a 15-year-old boy. The youngster was with Dixon when he was arrested, Powell said.
Powell also said more victims have come forward after Dixon’s arrest. When he was charged by the Sheriff’s Office last week, a spokeswoman there said the offenses likely occurred decades ago and detectives were seeking information from the victims or anyone who knew about the incidents.
Dixon was arrested a week ago Tuesday and was being held without bond at the Cochise County Jail. Two bail review hearings were postponed last week after no assistant public defender could be found to take his case. If he had been assigned an attorney by Friday afternoon, a bail evidentiary hearing would have been scheduled for Tuesday morning to determine, based on testimony by law enforcement, whether Dixon should be released.
But by 8:30 a.m. Monday, there was still no one available to represent Dixon and get up to speed to handle his case at Tuesday’s evidentiary hearing, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson said.
Arizona law requires that “...the hearing must be held as soon as practicable, but no later than seven days after the initial appearance.”
Dickerson said the deadline had been reached and he could not keep holding Dixon in jail without bond.
The lack of attorneys at the courthouse has been a glaring situation over the last several weeks, and especially prevalent on the defense side, court officials say.
Last week a frustrated Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal asked repeatedly where the attorney for one of her defendants was. The attorney, Yancey Garner, was nowhere to be found, and the defendant — appearing by video from the county jail — stated that he had never met Garner in person or via video and had never spoken to him.
Another attorney in the courtroom told Cardinal that Garner was working from home and was not seeing clients in person. That irked Cardinal, the judge making a comment about Garner’s manner of representing clients. Garner however, told the Herald/Review that he had actually spoken to that client on the phone several times and had met with him via video for over two hours.
The Herald/Review was told Monday that the attorney shortage originates with the Cochise County Public Defender’s Office. At the moment, there is no public defender, court officials said, but there is an interim public defender.
At the Monday hearing meanwhile, Powell painted a dark picture of Dixon for Dickerson. The judge told the attorney that despite the “serious charges” lodged against Dixon, he would have to change the conditions of release and either let Dixon go on his own recognizance, or set bond for the accused molester.
“This is a defendant who poses a substantial danger to young men,” Powell said. “These offenses go back to the 1980s.”
“These were all young men who were placed in vulnerable situations,” Powell added. “We have somebody, who in effect, is a predator.”
Dixon had to speak for himself at Monday’s session. The judge warned him to be careful with his words.
“I stand by my innocence,” he said. “I really don’t know what these people are saying.”
Dixon also said he has a bad heart and wants to be released “So that I can take care of my affairs.” He told Dickerson that he has no family he can trust. He also said that the court could do whatever they wanted with him after he got his affairs in order.
Powell had requested that Dixon be held on $500,000 bond. Dickerson set bail at $400,000. The judge also said that if Dixon is able to post bond, he is forbidden from having contact with the three victims mentioned in the indictment, or anyone under 18.
Dixon’s arrest last week was the culmination of a three-month investigation launched after one of Dixon’s victims — who is now 21 — reported the abuse, Powell said.
The victim told law enforcement that he was afraid of retribution by the defendant, claiming that Dixon has a lot of weapons and that he also had a “hit list.” Powell stated in an email to the Herald/review that he has not seen that, but said the victim told investigators that there was a hit list and that he feared being harmed if he told the authorities about Dixon.
Dickerson said court officials would continue looking for an attorney to represent Dixon.
The defendant’s arraignment is set for Aug. 9.