FARGO — A Fargo man accused of killing a woman and setting his apartment on fire more than a year ago claims a Cass County prosecutor dated one of the witnesses in the case.
While asking Judge Tristan Van de Streek for a new attorney, 45-year-old Sheldon George Davis said Friday, Aug. 21, that prosecutors are trying to hide an alleged relationship between what he called a suspect in the case and a member of the Cass County State’s Attorney Office.
“What’s going on here is an injustice to me,” Davis said.
Davis faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of killing 52-year-old Denise Anderson. Emergency crews found Anderson’s body Aug. 1, 2019, while responding to a fire at Davis’ Fargo apartment at 417 12th St. N.
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Prosecutors allege Davis killed Anderson, described as his ex-girlfriend, because she told police he raped her weeks before her death. Davis was not charged with sexual assault, and he denies raping and killing her.
In jailhouse interviews with The Forum, Davis has claimed another person is responsible for Anderson's killing. But the Fargo Police Department said there are no other suspects in the case.
Grand Forks County prosecutor Carmell Mattison has replaced Cass County prosecutor Renata Olafson Selzer as the prosecutor on the case due to a conflict of interest, Selzer said. Selzer said she couldn’t comment on the details of that conflict or who in the office it involved since the case is pending.
Attorneys have to inform the court of potential conflicts, Selzer said. That sometimes means an entire state's attorney's office must be recused. "We did it in an abundance of caution," Selzer told The Forum.
In a Friday phone interview with The Forum, Davis named a prosecutor other than Selzer as the attorney who he claims dated the witness. The Forum has been unable to confirm whether the allegations are true and is therefore not naming the attorney.
Mattison declined to comment on the case as she left the courthouse.
Van de Streek approved Grand Forks attorney David Ogren’s motion to withdraw as Davis’ attorney. In an Aug. 5 filing, Ogren said Davis has filed several complaints with his office.
“There exists an irreparable rift and a complete breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, such that my continued representation cannot continue,” Ogren wrote.
In court, Ogren said he was willing to work with Davis, noting the disagreements have been over tactical decisions. He also described the potential conflict as a relationship. Ogren did not return a message left by The Forum.
Davis said he asked Ogren to do things but didn’t do those things. Van de Streek said attorneys have the right to make tactical decisions on behalf of their clients.
“You don’t just get to keep going through attorneys,” the judge told Davis, adding that he won't let Davis play “musical chairs” with lawyers.
Ogren is the second attorney to be assigned to Davis’ case. Van de Streek warned Davis that he might not get a new attorney and may end up representing himself.
Davis acknowledged that he can’t represent himself in this case because it has become “super complicated,” he said.
“I just don’t feel he can fight this case,” Davis said of Ogren.
Mattison said in court it’s unclear when she would be ready for trial. The case was assigned to her on Tuesday, according to court documents. She said she hasn’t been able to review the case file.