Breckenridge man accused of manslaughter refuses to attend hearing after raising concerns about conflicts of interest with his public defender |

Breckenridge man accused of manslaughter refuses to attend hearing after raising concerns about conflicts of interest with his public defender

Miles Tovar has been in the custody of the Summit County jail since Nov. 22 after a nine-month manhunt

Ryan Spencer
Summit Daily News
Miles Fernando Tovar, 38, is charged with first-degree burglary, manslaughter, first-degree criminal trespass and harassment in connection to the death of then-29-year-old Brendan Rye, who was killed during an altercation in Breckenridge on Nov. 6, 2019.
U.S. Marshal Service/Courtesy photo

A Breckenridge man accused of killing his roommate in 2019 has raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest with the public defender appointed to him.

But, when the Summit County District Court held a hearing Monday, Feb. 13, to figure out how to address the conflict of interest, Miles Tovar refused to attend, leaving the judge and attorneys unsure of what to do.

“He’s refusing to appear, and the court’s not going to be bullied by that,” Judge Karen Romeo said.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tovar on Nov. 22 on an outstanding warrant related to charges of manslaughter, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and harassment stemming from the death of 29-year-old Brendan Rye.

The arrest came after Tovar turned himself in to deputy marshals in Bridgeport, Connecticut, last October, more than nine months after the warrant for his arrest was issued. He has been held on a $51,500 bond since his arrest.

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The charges stem from a Nov. 6, 2019, physical altercation between Tovar and Rye, which reportedly happened after a night of drinking. The Summit County Coroner’s report of the incident says Rye was found unconscious and not breathing while Tovar suffered from a gunshot wound to his right thigh.

Rye was taken to a hospital in Lakewood and pronounced dead on Nov. 7, 2019. The coroner’s report lists Rye’s manner of death as homicide and his cause of death as manual strangulation.

The report says Tovar told authorities that he was outside of the doorway of a bedroom and that Rye was inside the room before the altercation. Tovar reportedly said he heard a “loud bang” and noticed a pain in his leg. Tovar reported hearing another loud bang as the two wrestled to the ground, according to the report, and he said he held Rye to the floor until he was no longer moving.

Tovar says he acted in self-defense, according to the coroner’s report. 

On Monday, Judge Romeo had requested Tovar appear in person for the hearing to discuss the potential conflicts of interest with the public defender appointed to him, Kevin Jensen. The hearing would have been closed to the public with only Romeo, Jensen and Tovar present.

Tovar, however, refused to attend the hearing, even when given the option to attend virtually from the jail. A court employee who had contacted the jail in an attempt to get Tovar to join the hearing, relayed that he said he “feels it’s a setup.”

Jensen said he does believe that conflicts of interest exist with him representing Tovar, but he did not elaborate beyond saying that he’s narrowed the potential conflicts down to “three different reasons.”

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Cava said letters Tovar has submitted to the court indicate “he has a general misunderstanding of some of the purpose of the hearing.” Cava suggested Romeo respond to his letters to clarify why he needs to appear for the hearing.

The judge and lawyers were initially unsure if the hearing could move forward without Tovar’s input. Romeo said that “technically” Tovar’s failure to appear meant he is waiving the conflict.

“But that puts Mr. Jensen in a difficult situation,” she said. 

After some research, Jensen quoted case law that states that a hearing shall be conducted without the presence of the defendant unless a motion to withdraw is made after the failure of the defendant to appear in court as scheduled.

Noting that Tovar has failed to appear, Jensen said that he will now likely file a motion to withdraw as his counsel. 

“I am in a very difficult situation, and I believe what happened today is very indicative of that,” he said. 

Romeo scheduled another hearing for Tovar on Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. — giving her time to figure out how best to respond — and said the court will work to keep the case moving forward while not “trampling his constitutional rights.”

“But, he’s putting us in a difficult situation,” she said.

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