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Pastor denied a speedier hearing

A defense attorney lost his bid Wednesday to move up the preliminary hearing for Hickman pastor Doug Porter.

The two-to three-week hearing will begin Aug. 20 as planned.

In a rare move, attorney Kirk McAllister asked a Stanislaus County Superior Court judge to push forward even faster, saying he is ready to prove Porter is not guilty of murder, attempted murder or theft.

"We have an interest in exposing the so-called evidence and getting Mr. Porter out of jail," McAllister told the court.

Deputy District Attorney John Mayne said he has too much work to be ready any sooner. The prosecutor, who will lay out the government's case against Porter at the hearing, noted that the date was set months ago.

"To advance it now would not be equitable to the people," he said.

The motion was a departure from the norm, as defense attorneys usually ask for more time to prepare while prosecutors argue for a speedy trial, which requires a preliminary hearing within 10 days of an arraignment.

Porter previously waived his right to a speedy trial. This time, McAllister withdrew that waiver.

Judge Thomas Zeff said he will stick with the plan set by his predecessor, Judge Loretta Murphy Begen, who recently moved to a family law courtroom.

The attorneys were in court Wednesday for a status conference scheduled to ensure that the district attorney's office has turned investigative materials over to the defense as required.

The preliminary hearing is needed so Zeff can determine if Porter should be held for trial. Porter, 56, has been held without bail since his arrest in late November.

Porter is suspected of killing Frank Craig, a rancher who entrusted his $1.1 million estate to Porter in hopes that the pastor would help build a museum showcasing farm equipment Craig collected over decades.

Investigators allege that Porter, former leader of Hickman Community Church, drained Craig's accounts without making any progress on the museum, according to court records.

And Porter was behind the wheel during two accidents involving Craig.

The elderly man suffered major injuries in a March 5, 2002, crash that left him unable to walk without assistance. Craig was 85 when he died in the second wreck, April 22, 2004.