The final defendant accused of having a hand in the murder of a Lac du Flambeau man in December 2017 will have his case heard by a 14-person jury trial this November in Iron County Circuit Court.
Curtis Wolfe, 28, Lac du Flambeau, rejected a plea deal before Judge Greg Grau on Tuesday morning in Iron County Circuit Court.
“I’ve discussed the matter with my client, he’s prepared to move forward today,” Wolfe’s attorney Fred Bourg noted. “There was an effective until date when the proposal was made … his position has not changed since he saw the letter the first time.”
“He’s rejecting the offer set forth?” Grau asked.
“He is,” affirmed Bourg.
Wolfe confirmed he fully understood the offer as well as the ramifications of accepting it or not accepting it.
“I fully understand,” Wolfe relayed to the courtroom.
The offer, in a sealed envelope, was entered into the court record as Exhibit One.
In other trial matters Tuesday, prosecution and defense reviewed a number of motions that will play into the five-day trial, set Nov. 4 to the 8.
State prosecutors assistant attorney generals Richard Dufour and Chad Verbeten filed a motion this past spring to admit the statements made by Emmanual Reyes and Clint Eades, Jr., regarding the death of Wayne Valliere, Jr. that involved Wolfe; Evan Oungst, 29; Richard Allen, 29; Joseph Lussier, 28, and James Lussier, 21, on Dec. 22, 2017. Valliere was shot in the head and back in rural Mercer that night. Reyes and Eades were told by Joseph Lussier and Allen, respectively, events that led up to and occurred in the murder.
“Lussier made statements to Emmanuel Reyes in jail in Vilas County … Joseph Lussier who is a member of the Native Soldiers Gang, attempting to recruit Emmanuel Reyes to be a member of that gang … Mr. Lussier made statement to him regarding describing the homicide of Wayne Valliere, Jr. and described his involvement as well as the other individuals (charged in the crime).”
Dufour argued the statements were an exception to the hearsay rule — which does not permit hearsay at trial — as Joseph Lussier is currently seeking an appeal of his conviction of the murder, as is Allen. Therefore, neither of them can be called to give testimony at the Wolfe trial.
“We believe statements made to Emmanuel Reyes and Clint Eades, Jr. come in under the exception to this rule,” Dufour said.
The statements in question were also not made in testimony, therefore they also were hearsay rule exceptions, Dufour added.
Bourg opposed the motion.
“Those degrees of separation,” Bourg said of the statements told to other persons, “To those two individuals who were not a party to these actions … the statements we are talking about are not the statements of Emmanuel Reyes and Clint Eades, Jr … the admissions that were made were only part of the statement … the fundamental problem … is there is no way I can effectively represent my client in terms of cross-examination.”
“I disagree with the mental gymnastics it takes to determine what these individuals were talking about,” Bourg relayed. “The most important aspect of this is the right to cross-examine is the key element to the criminal justice system in the United States.”
To allow the statements would be to violate that right to cross-examine, concluded the defense attorney.
“I want to give more time and thought before I give my ruling,” Grau said after both sides made their cases on that motion. “I understood it was not contested. I will advise you about it next we meet, Nov. 4 at 8:30 a.m.”
In other motions, it was determined:
• Opening statements would be made before witnesses, but they were to leave the courtroom after that. Jenny Scharlow and Amanda Valliere, mother and sister to Valliere, were permitted as exceptions to this motion.
• Prosecution will have a state investigator sitting at their table. Defense will not have their own investigator present.
• The jury will be made up of 14 jurors with two alternates. A jury selection day will proceed the trial.
• Defense is allowed to reference Wolfe’s 17 prior convictions in the state criminal court system.
• An in-life photo of Valliere shortly before his death will be permitted.
• All witnesses coming from jails and the state prison system will be confirmed to be transported to Iron County the days of the trial before the trial starts, with confirmation given to Grau within the next 10 days.
• Wolfe will be allowed to wear civilian clothing.
• Wolfe will not be shackled in the courtroom or before jurors. The Iron County sheriff advised law enforcement present in the courtroom will be equipped with a taser device — concealed from the jury — should it be needed.
• Wolfe will be transported to and from the jail when jurors are not present.
• Bourg is considering a “reconstruction” of the van taken by the five defendants the night of the murder for trial purposes. The actual van is not expected to be brought to Iron County for viewing.
• The defense is precluded from introducing evidence of convictions of the victim or any witnesses.
• Both sides must follow the witness list and not call any new ones during trial.
• There will be a 15 minute recess.
Wolfe faces charges of first degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon as parties to a crime and hiding a corpse as a habitual criminal as party to a crime in the death and concealment of the body of Wayne Valliere, Jr., 25. He’s in Iron County Jail on a $1 million cash bond.
A dual jury trial last August found Allen and Joseph Lussier guilty before being sent to life in prison without parole. Wolfe testified at that trial — implicating both Lussier and Allen as the only two shooters in the murder. Lussier still seeks post-conviction relief with a public defender, as does Allen — who recently fired his public defender and is either aiming to hire a new one or proceed pro se.
James Lussier pled guilty to lesser charges in January of this year to felony murder/battery as parties to a crime/conspiracy and two counts of harboring aiding a felony as party to a crime and is serving a 30 year prison sentence, 15 in incarceration, 15 on monitoring.
Oungst pled guilty to amended charge of second degree reckless homicide as party to a crime and hiding a corpse as party to a crime and awaits sentencing in January 2020. Also as part of the plea agreement, he pled guilty to nine counts of harboring/aiding a felon as party to a crime and four counts of manufacture or deliver a prescription drug.