With a new judge assigned and the date changed four times, a motion to remand hearing for 23-year-old Sterling Randall Hunt, of Globe, is now set for 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 26.
Visiting Judge Pamela Gates, from Maricopa County Superior Court, will be sitting in Globe.
Hunt is the defendant in the Nov. 11, 2018 mass shooting in downtown Globe that ultimately left three people dead and one critically injured. His trial is currently set for Oct. 6, 2020.
On May 23, Gates vacated the June 18 hearing date, rescheduling it instead to July 26, according to court records.
Two days prior, Judge Janet E. Barton had re-assigned the case to Gates, at the same time, rescheduling the motion to remand hearing from June 6 to June 18.
During the March 27 hearing, Judge Bryan B. Chambers disclosed a prior professional relationship with former Gila County attorney Joe Albo, a victim’s relative and representative. He pointed out that Albo also serves as a pro tempore judge in Gila County.
While believing there was no conflict, Chamber said he thought the defense should know about it anyway.
At the time, Chambers recommended that an out-of-county judge make the decision, should the defense wish to file a motion to disqualify him from the case.
On Feb. 19, Hunt’s defense team had filed a motion asking to send the case back to grand jury.
With an allotted time of three hours, the “motion to remand” hearing was set May 17 in Chambers’ Division One Courtroom.
Hunt was arraigned Nov. 26, 2018, six days after a grand jury handed down an indictment on three counts of first degree/premeditated murder and two counts of attempted first degree/premeditated murder.
Among what Chambers described as “a whole slew of motions and responses,” Hunt’s defense team filed a Feb. 19 motion “to exceed page limits,” regarding its motion to remand to the grand jury “for a new determination of probable cause.”
“You don’t get to file four motions to remand,” said Soos, calling it “one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard.”
“Every defense attorney thinks they get to try the case before the grand jury,” he said at the time. “The grand jury is not a trial: It is a probable cause determination.”
Hunt’s defense team filed a 35-page motion, which Soos pointed out was “three times the page limit.”
“This is a complex capital case,” Ziemba said. “There are a lot of moving pieces, so there is no way to keep it down to 11 pages.”
Soos said that the defense “wanted to make their case that the defendant got a cigarette laced with drugs from one of the victims,” even though Hunt’s toxicology results indicated there were no drugs in his system.
“They believe it because defense attorneys believe what their clients tell them,” he said.
Soos went onto say, “It’s not a complex case. It’s very simple — there were three people killed execution-style at one time at one place.”
He described the evidence as “so overwhelming” that even a new grand jury wouldn’t make a different decision.
Reminding the court that there are “two sides to every story,” Ziemba said, “The State says that it is not a complex case, but it is in fact a complex case,” requiring the “fair and impartial presentation” of Hunt’s defense.
After granting the motion to exceed the page limit, Chambers reminded everyone that it had already been designated as a complex case.
Chambers said he believed that Soos was not denying the case’s designation, rather that “the case is simple, not complicated,” from the prosecution’s perspective.
Citing “a practical reason for granting the motion,” Chambers said at the time, “My goal is to only try this once, and not be overturned on appeal,” which he called “a very remote possibility.”
On Nov. 11, 2018, Cristi Licano, 44, and Daniel Albo, 22, were pronounced dead at the scene, while victims Ashley Sanchez and Charlene (Charlie) Peak, both age 22, were airlifted to Valley trauma centers for their critical injuries. Sanchez succumbed to her injuries on Nov. 15.
A fifth victim, 32-year-old Scott Mills, was shot at during the incident but was “able to run for cover and he was not hit by any of the gunman’s bullets,” according to Globe Police Chief Dale Walters.
During press conferences in November 2018, Walters described the scenario in which Albo, Sanchez and Peak had gone to the back patio of Jammerz Bar for a smoke, while Hunt went to the front.
While the three were smoking, Hunt went to the back patio and opened fire. He then left the back patio, encountering Mills and Licano and shot at them, Walters said.
Hunt had played pool with the victims earlier that night, he said.