MODESTO -- A judge on Friday reluctantly postponed a trial scheduled to start in a few weeks for a Modesto real estate agent accused of swindling a Newman family out of its home more than 10 years ago.
The issue that stalled the trial is who will represent Erica Burdg, 61, in her second trial. Her first trial ended with a hung jury 15 months ago.
Burdg recently hired private attorney Berndt Brauer, but he is in the middle of a double-homicide trial in San Jose. He has told the judge he will not be available for the trial scheduled to start Dec. 4.
Earlier this month, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden refused to delay the trial because she said Burdg has had enough time to hire an attorney. At that time, the judge said that if necessary, she would proceed with the trial with deputy public defender Donnell Snipes representing Burdg.
Snipes told the judge Friday morning that he is involved with too many other cases to have enough time to prepare for the trial.
"I will not be ready to go on Dec. 4," Snipes said in court.
McFadden said she could not proceed with the trial if the defendant's attorney is not prepared.
The judge initially wanted to schedule another pretrial hearing Nov. 30 to see if the situation had changed with either defense attorney.
But Deputy District Attorney W.R. McKenzie asked the judge to go ahead and cancel the Dec. 4 trial date. He told the judge he didn't want to have the prosecution's witnesses making plans to testify next month if the judge was likely to postpone the trial.
The judge agreed and scheduled Burdg to return to court Nov. 30 for another pretrial hearing, likely to determine when another trial date can be scheduled.
Burdg has been charged with grand theft, forgery and attempted perjury. She is accused of taking money from Carlos Gonzales' family, which believed it was buying a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Newman.
According to testimony and arguments in the first trial, Gonzales and his wife, Ernestina Valladarez, thought they owned the house on Orchard Creek Drive and had given Burdg a $22,000 down payment and $1,200 monthly mortgage payments.
Burdg has testified that Gonzales' bad credit and lack of employment collapsed the deal to buy the home. She said she talked her husband into buying the house as an investment and rented the home to the family.
Michael Linn, the Gonzales family's attorney, objected to this latest delay. He told the judge that this is the 47th pretrial hearing in the case. Linn has said the criminal case also has stalled civil proceedings for the Gonzales family.
In the hearing earlier this month, prosecutor McKenzie told McFadden that the issue of hiring a private attorney is another example of the defendant trying to delay the trial.
In late January, authorities apprehended Burdg in Oregon and returned her to Stanislaus County after she failed to appear for several court hearings.
She then was released from custody on bail and has asked the judge for more time to hire a private attorney, failing to hire two other attorneys before retaining Brauer.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.