Prosecutor: Jail calls reveal sinister court strategy by alleged white supremacist murderer

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Thursday, October 6, 2022
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Brandon Engelman was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Wednesday, which means witnesses were ready to testify.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An alleged white supremacist murderer postponed his murder case back Wednesday, and prosecutors say his jail phone calls reveal it's part of a plan to prevent a witness from testifying.

Brandon Engelman was scheduled to have a preliminary hearing Wednesday, which means witnesses were ready to testify.

The charges against Engelman are as serious as they can be.

Prosecutors say the Coarsegold man murdered 46-year-old Pacer Hampton in April 2021.

And they say Engelman is a member of a gang known to conduct operations alongside white supremacists, including the Aryan Brotherhood.

Engelman and his attorney had pushed for a speedy preliminary hearing several times over the last two months, but they hit the brakes Wednesday.

"We're going to continue investigating this case," said defense attorney Jamil Nushwat.

Nushwat says he thought a protective order in the case that prevented him from giving certain evidence to Engelman also prevented him from reading it to his client.

"I have not yet had an opportunity to have a full discussion with my client about the very specifics from the investigation reports I was provided," Nushwat told the judge.

He said the prosecutor recently corrected him, so he wanted time to dig deeper with Engelman.

But the prosecutor doesn't believe that's the real reason for the delay.

"From the people's view, what's changed in this case is not Mr. Engelman's preparation, but that Mr. Engelman now realizes that the people have secured witnesses he thought he had successfully kept out of court," said prosecutor Robert Veneman-Hughes.

Engelman saw at least one of those witnesses Wednesday morning. He asked for a postponement in the afternoon.

In between, Veneman-Hughes says Engelman exposed his strategy over the phone.

"We are particularly troubled by intercepted jail communications from Mr. Engelman that seem to suggest that his intention is to delay this trial in order to cause the non-appearance of The People's witnesses," Veneman-Hughes said.

The judge gave Engelman a delay, but warned about the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing.

If a witness disappears because of wrongdoing by the defendant, whatever the witness said to police could be used in court without cross-examination to challenge the witness' story.

Engelman is now due back in court in three weeks when his preliminary should be heard and a judge will decide whether there's enough evidence for him to go to trial.

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