Man wants to represent himself at murder trial

Steve Garrison
Rick Stallings

AZTEC – Rick Stallings, who is charged in the murder of 69-year-old Karen Cugnini, is asking a judge to dismiss his attorney so that he can represent himself.

Stallings, 50, filed a motion April 11 requesting that Judge Karen Townsend dismiss his attorney, Thomas Clark, in three pending criminal cases. Stallings alleges Clark has been slow to provide him evidence in the cases and is attempting to delay his murder trial.

The inmate asked the judge to dismiss Clark and appoint a new attorney, who will serve as standby counsel so Stallings can represent himself.

"Your honor, I have no trust in my attorney Thomas Clark," Stallings wrote in the motion. "He just don't seem to see eye to eye."

Clark is a Santa Fe attorney contracted by the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender. He said Friday the evidence Stallings seeks has not been provided to him by the San Juan County District Attorney's Office.

"I'll continue to zealously represent Rick Stallings until the judge tells me not to," Clark said.

Stallings is charged with first-degree murder and several felony theft offenses on allegations he shot Cugnini on Oct. 1 at her residence at 236 County Road 3050 in Flora Vista, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Prosecutors allege Stallings burglarized the home after the shooting, stealing Native American rugs, silver and turquoise jewelry, credit cards, checks and Cugnini's pickup truck.

Before the murder, Stallings was accused of stealing a trailer from a residence in Aztec, according to court records. He also faces charges on allegations he possessed a makeshift knife at the jail in December.

A hearing on the motion is set for July 11. The murder trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 28.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.