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Man accused of two murders wants experienced defense attorney removed from case

FARGO -- A man facing trial in Cass County District Court after being accused of two murders told a judge Tuesday he'd rather defend himself than continue to work with his defense attorney.

FARGO -- A man facing trial in Cass County District Court after being accused of two murders told a judge Tuesday he'd rather defend himself than continue to work with his defense attorney.

Stating that there has been "a complete breakdown in communication," Ashley Hunter told Judge Norman Anderson he would rather waive his right to counsel than continue dealing with Steven Mottinger, a Fargo attorney who in addition to having a private practice has been a contract indigent defense attorney in Cass County since the early 1980s.

Anderson told Hunter that Mottinger is an experienced lawyer who cares about his clients and that he "should keep that in mind," as he weighed whether or not to defend himself.

"Even if I'm uncomfortable with him?" answered Hunter, who is accused of stabbing Clarence Flowers to death after a dispute over drugs.

Hunter is also accused of killing another man, Sam Traut, about 12 hours later, using a hammer to bludgeon the victim, whom authorities say was killed because he was a witness.

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Hunter also faces an arson charge -- accused of setting fire to Traut's home to cover up the murder.

Although Hunter stated repeatedly in court Tuesday that he no longer wanted Mottinger to defend him, Anderson denied the request to have Mottinger removed from the case, and Anderson urged Hunter to take some time to rethink his request.

The judge added that if things cannot be resolved, Hunter could renew his motion at a later time.

Mottinger told Anderson he would attempt to meet with Hunter this week.

The case is scheduled for trial in June.

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