BILLINGS - A Billings judge on Monday ordered the state public defender’s office to assign an attorney to a man charged with shooting and killing his neighbor in March 2013.
Patrick O. Neiss, 43, had previously applied twice for a court-appointed attorney, but the public defender’s office found that he didn’t qualify financially, court records show.
Neiss, who is being held with bond set at $500,000, pleaded not guilty in August to deliberate homicide with a weapons enhancement and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence for allegedly disposing of the .40-caliber gun he is believed to have used to kill 47-year-old Frank “Trey” Greene III on March 8, 2013.
Following Neiss’ arrest in August, he hired Red Lodge attorneys A. W. “Tony” Kendall and Raymond G. Kuntz, but later decided he didn’t want them to represent him, and they withdrew from the case, records show.
The attorney-client relationship “has broken down,” a document the attorneys filed in October said.
Without private counsel or a public defense attorney, Neiss would have been obliged to represent himself.
To be eligible for a court-appointed attorney in Montana, a person must meet a number of qualifications, including having a gross income at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
The federal poverty level for a two-person household in Montana in 2014 was $15,730, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
But Monday, Yellowstone County District Court Judge Mary Jane Knisely ruled that he should be assigned an attorney through the public defender’s office.
David Duke, head of the of the state public defender’s office in Billings, said Wednesday that he is in the process of assigning Neiss an attorney.
Neiss, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 24.