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Fraga makes brief court appearance

WORTHINGTON -- The cost of a transcript of the grand jury proceedings of Josue Robles Fraga could run approximately $3,000, which poses a problem for the public defenders assigned to the murder case.

Fraga's attorneys want a copy of the grand jury trial transcript but told Judge Timothy Connell they cannot afford to purchase it.

"(The public defender's office) doesn't have any money," said Cecil Naatz. "They are firing public defenders for lack of funds."

The office is hoping the county will pick up the tab, but Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore is less than enthusiastic about the idea.

"The county's funds are not unlimited, either," he told the judge.

Fraga, who is accused of murdering his 2-year-old niece while he sexually molested her, made a brief appearance Tuesday morning in Nobles County District Court so that his attorneys could discuss the transcript issue and several others. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, he sat quietly while the attorneys spoke with the judge.

According to Moore, if the public defenders want to challenge the indictment of Fraga, they have an obligation to provide the court with the original and make suitable arrangements for payment. Moore indicated his office would be willing to share the cost, but doesn't feel the burden should be placed entirely on the county.

A memorandum regarding the transcript, filed by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp, states the defense wanted the transcript at no cost to the defendant or public defender's office as part of discovery.

But the transcript does not currently exist.

"The prosecution at this point has no interest in ordering a complete transcript of the grand jury proceedings except as may be necessary to respond to a challenge from the defendant," the memorandum states. "Consequently, we have not ordered production of any portion of the grand jury transcript."

The court reporter for the grand jury trial operates on a freelance basis, and transcripts must be ordered through that individual.

The memorandum asks that the court require the public defender's office to make a showing that no funds are available and that the defendant is unable to pay for the transcript himself.

"In light of the Social Security Administration's earning statements pertaining to the defendant, an inquiry into the defendant's true financial status may be appropriate," the document states.

Discovery -- information about the case from interviews and forensics -- has been delivered to Fraga's attorneys, but Naatz said he has not yet had time to read through it all.

An omnibus hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 16. This hearing will determine what evidence will be admissible at a trial and assures there is sufficient evidence -- probable cause -- to support the charges. Issues such as searches, seizures of evidence, confessions and the admissibility of prior crimes or bad acts are addressed during an omnibus.

"Mr. Fraga expressed concern that (the omnibus hearing) was a long way off," Naatz told Judge Connell. "But I need time to read it all and prepare."

The 28-day requirement was waived with the understanding that if Naatz could be prepared earlier, the hearing could be moved up on the court calendar.

He also asked the judge to review the bail amount set in Fraga's case. The amount was set after the first-degree murder indictment for $1 million without conditions, or $750,000 with conditions.

During the bail hearing June 2, Klumpp alleged Fraga had been arrested while driving around Adrian trying to locate his children, who had been removed from his home. Klumpp also spoke of an alleged conversation between Fraga and a mechanic in which Fraga asked the mechanic to take a look at a van he wanted to use to drive back to Mexico because of a family emergency -- a trip his wife apparently knew nothing about when questioned by law enforcement.

"It is our belief the defendant was planning to leave the country as law enforcement was getting ready to point a finger at him," Klumpp said.

Naatz said Tuesday Fraga had innocent explanations for both the trip to Adrian and the conversation with the mechanic regarding the van and asked the judge to review the bail.

"To make sure it is adequate and fair," Naatz added.

Moore countered by asking the judge to leave the bail as is, commenting that the two reasons for raising the bail amount were the first-degree murder charge and the arguments Klumpp had presenting regarding the alleged evidence of Fraga being a flight risk.

Connell told Naatz and Fraga he found the bail amount appropriate and denied the request for a reduction. Fraga is being held in the Nobles County Jail, where he has been since his arrest March 26.