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January 10, 2014

Rivers sentencing delayed

ELIZABETHTOWN — For the fourth time in five months, sentencing of Michael D. Rivers has been delayed.

Convicted by a jury in May, Rivers faces sentencing on first-degree manslaughter for his role in the death of Robert M. Rennie, 45, of Keeseville, who died after being brutally kicked repeatedly in August 2012.

The crime carries a maximum 25 years in prison. The jury also found Rivers guilty of gang assault.

But sentencing in this case has been pushed forward since Aug. 8 due to Rivers’s repeated objection to his legal counsel.

COULDN’T AGREE

In court Thursday, Rivers stood with his second court-appointed attorney, Alex Shmulsky. 

Wearing a black-and-white striped jail jumpsuit, he nodded to members of his family sitting on the defense side of the galley in the courtroom.

“There is a reason we can’t proceed,” Shmulsky told Essex County Judge Richard B. Meyer.

Then the lawyer asked to be relieved as Rivers’s counsel.

Shmulsky told Meyer that what Rivers had asked him to do in defense was “so distant” that “I couldn’t zealously advocate on his behalf.”

Meyer turned to Rivers and asked if he wanted to dismiss the lawyer.

“Yes, I do,” Rivers said.

“Tell me why,” Meyers said.

“We couldn’t agree on anything,” Rivers said.

‘PLAYING GAMES’

Rivers sought legal counsel from the Public Defender’s Office at his arraignment in October 2012. At that time, he asked specifically for attorney Greg LaDuke, who defended Rivers at trial in June.

Rivers was set to be sentenced on Aug. 8 but asked the court to dismiss LaDuke. And the court granted that request, appointing Shmulsky.

In court Thursday, Rivers said he told Shmulsky not to say anything on his behalf in court.

“What is the point of having a lawyer if you’re not going to let them speak on your behalf?” Meyer asked.

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