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Pay issue not yet resolved
Money matters have held up mans death penalty case
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Forsyth County News
The director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council has asked for more time to resolve a pay issue with defense attorneys for one of three men facing the death penalty in a 2006 farmhouse massacre.

Mack Crawford told Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley Wednesday that fiscal year 2010 budget negotiations are under way.

“I would ask the court for some patience,” he said. “I need about two and a half weeks until the legislative session ends, which at this point is scheduled for April 3, to be able to secure the funding.”

Attorney Jeff Purvis, who represents Frank Ortegon, told Bagley in February that he and attorney Bobby Wilson have not been paid for more than a year’s worth of work on the case.

As a result, Bagley continued motion hearings originally scheduled for March 2 and 3 in an attempt to clear up the matter.

Ortegon, Jason McGhee and Marcin Sosniak face 20 charges each in connection with the March 19, 2006, shooting deaths of four people, including three teenagers, at a farmhouse on Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn is seeking the death penalty against all three men, who will be tried separately.

Once Penn sought the death penalty, the county’s indigent defense office was relieved of its responsibility to pay for counsel.

Penn expressed concerns to Bagley in February that stalling the case could affect her ability to pursue the death penalty.

Crawford said the state House version of the next fiscal year budget was in the appropriations committee Wednesday and would be up for a House vote Thursday.

He said the money “to take care of the court’s concerns” would be in that version.

The state budget is expected to pass before the session ends April 3.

Bagley said he stands by his previous statement that the situation is a “constitutional crisis.”

He said Ortegon and the state are entitled to a fair and speedy trial, adding that the public also deserves to see the case move forward.

Bagley said he will monitor the budget as it moves through the legislative process.

“I’m going to assume that this bill will be passed and be signed by the governor, and I’m going to be optimistic in that regard,” he said.

Purvis and Wilson expressed concerns regarding experts in the case and the time it is taking to pay them.

Purvis asked that some sort of hearing on the matter be scheduled about April 3, though no date was set Wednesday.

He said he plans to file “numerous motions on Mr. Ortegon’s behalf” if it appears the funding issues will not be resolved by April.

E-mail Julie Arrington at