John E. Hummel, 54, St. George, has been charged with with seven counts of theft or attempted theft by extortion, stemming from his time in 2008 and 2009, serving as a Garfield public defender.

The charges were filed in Sixth District Court and involved Hummel allegedly using his public defender position to manipulate six indigent defendants into trading personal property and promissory notes for better representation. As a public defender, Hummel was appointed by the court and paid by the county to represent defendants who have little or no means to attain a lawyer.

In February 2009, according to the charges, a man agreed to pay Hummel $5000 after the defense attorney told the man he’d have a better chance for a deal if he personally represented him, and would be released from jail that day. Hummel allegedly also told the gentleman he could face additional charges if he didn’t sign over his weapons – a pistol, rifle and shotgun – to Hummel as a retainer.

Other charges involved similar demands by Hummel for indigents’ personal property in exchange for ‘breaks’ or better representation. Guns, cash, television, iPod, digital camera, video camera, PlayStation 3, two computers and horses were also allegedly given to the public defender in return for services.

John Hummel served as Kane County Attorney from 2005 until his resignation in May of 2007. He was initially appointed to finish County Attorney Eric Lind’s term in December 2005. Hummel then ran and was elected to the position in January of 2006.

Political conflicts still troubled Hummel after a bitter election. His resignation came days before a court hearing on a lawsuit contesting his residence. (State law requires a county attorney to live in the county he works for.) While Hummel had a small apartment in Kanab, it was leveled he was rarely there, and instead spent the majority of his time with his family in an upscale house in St. George.

A preliminary hearing on the Garfield County charges was held on June 20 in Panguitch.