The trial of a suspected gang member accused of being involved in an attack on a rival gang member at a Pasco apartment starts today after a judge refused to allow his attorney to withdraw.
Stephen Esteras Morfin, 21, of Kennewick, was in Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday afternoon as his defense attorney Scott Johnson told the court that there's been a breakdown in communication between the two of them, court records show.
Judge Craig Matheson told Morfin that Johnson is a competent attorney and denied Johnson's request to withdraw from the case.
Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow then amended the first-degree assault charge against Morfin by alleging Morfin was armed with a gun at the time. A mandatory five-year prison sentence will be added for the gun if Morfin's convicted.
His trial starts at 9 a.m. and is expected to last two days.
According to court documents, he is accused of going to a Pasco apartment with two other men Feb. 10 and assaulting a Pasco woman and her daughter, who are said to be part of a rival gang.
When officers arrived at the B Street apartment after a 911 hang-up, they found Sylvia Guerra, 33, and her daughter, Selina Cortez, 18, who both appeared to have been assaulted, documents stated.
Broken furniture and glassware also were found in the apartment.
Morfin is accused of assaulting Cortez with the gun after a fight broke out when he went to the apartment with Isidro Licon and Edgar Arroyos.
The three men apparently had gone to there to see Guerra's boyfriend, but when Licon saw Guerra in the apartment, he yelled at her.
Cortez then came out of a bedroom and began defending her mother by yelling at Licon, documents said.
Licon allegedly threw Cortez to the ground, pulled a pistol out of his waistband, put it in her face and said he was going to shoot her, documents said.
Guerra tried to stop Licon but Arroyos reportedly hit her in the face.
Morfin and Arroyos, who has a June 20 trial pending for one count of first-degree assault, were arrested a couple of days after the incident.
Licon had been on the run, but was arrested by Benton County sheriff's deputies last month.
He's facing a trial in Benton County Superior Court for possession of a gun and has not appeared in Franklin County on the assault charge.