Brenda Ashcraft, the former real estate agent indicted on charges she swindled investors out of $15 million, failed to show-up at the federal courthouse here Monday even though she was required to, FOX19 Investigates has learned.
Federal Judge Sandra Beckwith wanted Ashcraft at the courthouse yesterday afternoon after defense attorney Kevin Tierney filed a motion asking for permission to withdraw from the case. Tierney told the judge he had notified Ashcraft by e-mail that she needed to be present.
Judge Beckwith told him that Ashcraft's failure to appear was "in violation of her conditions of release on bail," according to the court reporter's summary of what happened.
Ashcraft finally showed-up this morning, FOX19 has learned. The judge gave Ashcraft a verbal warning about the importance of appearing when required. Judge Beckwith then went inside her chambers with Ashcraft --- without prosecutors present --- for what's known as an ex parte conference. During that meeting, the court reporter's notes indicate Ashcraft informed Judge Beckwith about an alleged conflict of interest.
"Ex parte conference held in chambers re: (defendant's) conflict of interest," the court reporter wrote in her summary.
Judge Beckwith ordered the transcript sealed. So we don't yet know the details of the alleged conflict of interest.
The judge is giving Ashcraft two weeks to find a new attorney.
Tierney's request to leave the case followed a pre-trial conference last week, which FOX19 was allowed to attend, in which Tierney said he might ask the court for taxpayers to foot the bill for Ashcraft's defense, suggesting Ashcraft would claim she's out of money. That motion was never filed.
Instead, Tierney is off the case and a new attorney will have to start absorbing all of the material related to the FBI's wire fraud and securities fraud investigation. That will likely delay Ashcraft's trial. Judge Beckwith had wanted it to begin next month on the day after Presidents Day.