County Judge Gary Graham and lawyer Charles Horn's war of words, usually fought in speeches and on billboards, has focused temporarily on whispers and private chats. Horn has asked the judge to step down from the case of his client, Marvin Joe Leffew. Graham has discussed Leffew's case with a prosecutor and also had a closed-door session with the jury just before Leffew's trial started Monday, according to legal motions that Horn filed Wednesday.
Assistant State Attorney Jodi Seitlin told Horn that her conversations with Graham were purely administrative; Graham told Horn he addressed the jury simply to explain why the trial had been delayed until 6 p.m. Monday.
But Horn said he can't be certain what else was said. And those nagging doubts are enough to make Leffew unsure whether the judge would be fair.
"I've never seen it happen before. I think it's highly unusual," Horn said of Graham's conversations. "I'm not there. My client's not there. We have a right to be there when anything is said. It's pure and simple."
Graham steadfastly has refused to comment to reporters.
Horn unsuccessfully challenged Graham in the elections last September. During the campaign, the Crystal River lawyer erected billboards with the slogan "cut the bull," a reference to some of Graham's unorthodox sentences.
Graham, in speeches, also questioned Horn's tactics.
Horn said he learned about the private conversations in the hours before the trial was scheduled to start Monday.
Leffew, a 34-year-old Crystal River man, is accused of battery, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and four counts of culpable negligence.
Horn wanted Graham to declare a mistrial, but he refused. The trial went on until 10:30 p.m., when Graham suspended it until Saturday morning.
Horn took advantage of that time to file motions asking Graham to remove himself from the case. Graham does not plan to act on that request until Saturday, so Horn filed emergency motions with the chief appellate judge in the 5th Judicial Circuit asking him to force Graham off the case.