Cox’s lawyer found dead in home
Mike Cruz, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/21/2010 08:19:24 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – A long-awaited trial for former Hesperia Councilman Tad Honeycutt and Steven Cox, founder of the now-defunct California Charter Academy, is expected to face delays after a defense lawyer in the case was recently found dead in his home.

Honeycutt and Cox are named in a special grand jury indictment from September 2007, which includes more than 100 felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and grand theft.

The case has already undergone delays because of the immense amount of discovery – more than 52,000 pages of documents and reports. Three judges have also recused themselves.

But now, Cox is getting new representation after his lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Earl Wade Shinder, was found dead Nov. 14. At a hearing Thursday, a new deputy public defender appeared for Cox.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Fermin, who is prosecuting the case, wasn’t able to determine Friday how a new lawyer will affect the massive case.

“Delays can always cause difficulty,” Fermin said by phone. “So to say what impact it will have, I couldn’t tell you. But the defense does have a right to have counsel that’s prepared.”

Sheriff’s deputies found Shinder’s body with a gunshot wound at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at his own home in Apple Valley, according to Cindy Bachman, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman. Bachman said Friday that the shooting appeared to be self-inflicted and no arrests were made.

The case was moved last month to West Valley Superior Court, in Rancho Cucamonga, from Victorville Superior Court, according to court records. Deputy Public Defender Renae Carpenter appeared for Cox at a hearing Thursday.

The defendants are scheduled to return to court Jan. 5 for a status hearing.

An attempt to reach George Thompson, the chief deputy at the Public Defender’s Office in Victorville where Shinder worked, was unsuccessful.

Cox founded the Victorville-based California Charter Academy in 1999, launching four charter schools, and eventually, more than 60 school sites serving 12,000 students. But the academy closed abruptly in August 2004.

Cox also founded Educational Administrative Services Corp., a for-profit company intended to provide management services to the schools. Cox served as CEO for both the charter academy and EASC.

An audit conducted by the state superintendent’s Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team details how Cox allegedly funneled public money from the charter schools to EASC and other subsidiary companies run by himself and by Honeycutt.

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