Shabazz wary of appointed public defender

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Shabazz, after the contentious court appearance

KINGSTON – One week has gone by since the scheduled sentencing
hearing for Ismail Shabazz of Kingston in a plea bargain for gun charges.
Still without a new attorney, the court appointed a public defender to
his case Tuesday afternoon, relieving previous defense lawyer Michael
Sussman from the case.
Shabazz requested to take back his guilty plea last week so he could proceed to trial on felony weapons sales. Under that plea, he was to be sentenced to two years in prison.
The Kingston civil rights activist, arrested in June 2015, claims he was entrapped by overzealous law enforcement officials.
Public defender Maryann Connelly, the new attorney, and her client Shabazz appeared displeased to be partnered together in court on Tuesday. The two did not shake hands or speak with each other. Shabazz asked the judge, via his former attorney, for a different choice. The request was overruled.
Shabazz wants to continue with his effort to have his guilty plea withdrawn, but with different legal counsel.
“I’m not comfortable having this lady do that because she is not going to do a job that represents me,” he claimed. “She is a public pretender. I don’t like her; she doesn’t like me. She lied on me about some issues. For me to go in there is like putting a gun to my head.”
According to Shabazz, past run-ins with Connelly might cause a conflict. He has criticized Connelly and other public defenders for using a waiver form with indigent clients, which allows defendants to remain in jail indefinitely until a guilty plea is obtained. Connelly denies the accusations.
“Not all public defenders are bad,” Shabazz said after the appearance. “But I know that one [Connelly], I’d rather go in there myself. In my opinion, she’s a snake.”
Visiting Judge Richard McNally, Jr. warned Shabazz against attempting to proceed to trial pro se. Despite his prior experience as a paralegal, McNally advised the defendant, “a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.”
The next court appearance is scheduled for February 1. Defense has until Jan. 25 to submit the formal plea withdrawal motion to McNally. Prosecutors have until February 1 to respond.  Shabazz must work through Connelly’s office until then, even if he finds a new attorney.