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Judge says father accused of abuse can't use defender

A father charged in a brutal child abuse case who bailed out of jail and now is working will lose a court-appointed lawyer intended for those too poor to hire counsel, a Hillsborough judge ruled Friday.

Eric Shumpert, 20, along with his girlfriend Tammy Kidder, 21, was charged with burning and beating their 2{-year-old son Eric Jr., and each parent was jailed in lieu of $30,000 bail. Kidder remained in jail Friday, but Shumpert posted the required 10 percent of the bail amount through his stepfather and was released earlier this month.

Both parents have indicated they cannot afford to pay for lawyers. Kidder is represented by the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office, and private attorney Andy Steingold was appointed to Shumpert as a special public defender.

But in a hearing Friday, Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe learned Shumpert is earning $5 an hour, working 35 to 40 hours a week in lawn maintenance, and not paying rent or child support.

Steingold said his client has no cash or property, is working to pay off $1,800 still owed to the bondsman, and cannot afford to hire private counsel.

"It's apparent by the court's withdrawal of court-appointed counsel, based on the defendant's earnings and inability to afford private counsel, that there should be a change of venue," Steingold said. "Because neither defendant is going to get a fair trial in front of any judge in Hillsborough County."

Steingold would not say whether he would appeal Tharpe's decision.