Kuenzi plea deal nixed
A plea deal in the Rory Kuenzi drunken driving homicide case fell through and the jury trial is still set to begin Monday, Nov. 15.
Kuenzi faces felony charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and hit-and-run.
Kuenzi was at a plea hearing Thursday, Oct. 14, in Waupaca County Circuit Court.
His defense counsel, Troy Nielsen and David Dickmann, reached a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office in early October. Late last week, the court scheduled the hearing.
At Thursday’s hearing, Nielsen said the deal did not happen and Kuenzi would not be entering a plea.
Nielsen then asked Judge Philip Kirk to postpone the jury trail, which is scheduled for the week of Nov. 15-19.
He said the defense had stopped pursuing expert witnesses and ceased its investigation.
“We thought that a deal would be reached,” Nielsen said, adding that he did not believe the defense could put together an adequate case in time for the trial.
Nielsen said he was also concerned the trial would run into the gun deer hunting season that opens Saturday, Nov. 20. He did not want the jury to feel rushed to pass judgment or potential jury members to avoid sitting on the case because it could interfere with their plans for the first weekend of hunting.
Nielsen said the defense was asking for a continuance of two months in a case that the prosecution had taken five years to bring to court.
The prosecution took issue with Nielsen’s assertion that the defense counsel would not have adequate time to prepare if the case was held as scheduled.
Assistant Attorney General Dennis Krueger argued that the state had provided the information in June that the defense requested.
“It has been less than a week since Mr. Kuenzi informed his counsel of his intent to accept the offer,” Krueger said. “The delay is entirely due to the defendant.”
Krueger also noted that the parents of Kevin McCoy, the man Kuenzi allegedly killed while driving drunk on Oct. 23, 2004, “want justice. They want the matter to proceed.”
Judge Philip Kirk denied Nielsen’s motion for a continuance, which means the jury trial will proceed as scheduled.
“Today is Oct. 14. A week ago today, the defendant told his counsel he was willing to accept the offer,” Kirk said. “Then two days ago, he changed his mind.”
Kirk said he saw “nothing untoward in anybody’s conduct here,” noting that defendants may decide to back out of a plea deal. However, “the system deserves a result.”
Kirk observed that six years have passed since the alleged hit-and-run incident occurred.
“This case doesn’t just have whiskers, it’s grown a beard down to the floor,” Kirk said. “The result that can be obtained becomes more questionable with the passage of time.”