Alleged shooter of ‘Weasel’s’ owner requests new lawyer
Edwin D. Hughes slated to stand trial Jan. 22
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A 30-year-old Appleton man accused of shooting of the owner of Weasel’s Exotic Entertainment club in Three Lakes almost seven years ago and scheduled to stand trial Jan. 22 in Oneida County Circuit Court has requested a new attorney.
Edwin D. Hughes appeared in court Friday for his final pretrial conference on felony charges of first-degree reckless injury, attempted armed robbery, armed burglary and taking and driving a vehicle without consent. If convicted on all four counts, he could face up to 40 ½ years of initial confinement in prison, followed by 25 ½ years of extended supervision, and/or fines totaling $210,000.
Hughes, who remains in custody and has been represented by attorney Elizabeth F. Svehlek, made his request for a new lawyer Friday before Judge Patrick F. O’Melia, who noted that he was inclined not to grant the request, given it was made 10 days before the trial is set to begin. However, O’Melia set a motion hearing for Tuesday when the request would be considered.
District attorney Michael W. Schiek said he opposed having Hughes be assigned a new lawyer and asked that the trial take place as scheduled. Schiek noted that would delay resolving the case, in which witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify for when the trial is now scheduled.
9-1-1 AUDIO ADMISSIBLE
A matter argued at Friday‘s pretrial conference related to the admissibility of the audio of the 9-1-1 call made by Weasel’s owner Don Dal Ponte after allegedly being shot by Hughes. Svehlek argued that the recording shouldn’t be allowed because it contained statements that are “testimonial” in nature and subject to cross-examination by the defense, which now would not be possible following Dal Ponte’s death.
O’Melia agreed with Schiek and found both the 9-1-1 audio and a transcript of that could be entered as evidence, noting the audio amounted to an “excited utterance” defined under state law and admissible in court even with Dal Ponte no longer available to testify.
HUGHES ALLEGEDLY INVOLVED WITH ANOTHER
Hughes allegedly was one of two men who went to Dal Ponte’s house Feb. 9, 2011, pretending to be snowmobilers who ran out of gas. The court complaint states the two men first left after Dal Ponte had told them he had gas in the garage, but returned approximately 5 minutes later when he opened the door and was struck on the left side of his face.
The two men are accused of having a physical altercation with Dal Ponte and asking him where the money was. Hughes allegedly pushed his pistol against Dal Ponte’s leg while the other individual, identified in the complaint as Daniel Frausto, went through the house looking for money. The complaint states Dal Ponte refused to give them the combination to a safe Frausto threw off a balcony and they threatened to shoot him.
The complaint alleges that after Hughes shot Dal Ponte through his legs, Frausto, who didn’t intend to shoot Dal Ponte but was only trying to scare him into cooperating, lost all interest in finishing the robbery and the two left the home, taking nothing other than the empty casing of the round that was fired. After the two men fled the scene, Frausto said he later threw the gun in the Fox River in Kaukauna.
According to medical records cited in the complaint, Dal Ponte was admitted Feb. 9, 2011, to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander for gunshot wounds to both of his thighs and a closed head injury. Surgery was performed on the gunshot wounds and he was released from the hospital on Feb. 12, 2011.
The complaint alleges Frausto stated March 6, 2012, in an interview at the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office that he decided to rob the owner of Weasel’s, in part, because he had netted $50,000 in a similar burglary involving Sapphire’s Strip Club and that he and Hughes had made several trips to Oneida County to prepare for the crime. During one of the trips, Frausto said he observed a safe in Dal Ponte’s garage and determined Dal Ponte would likely have a safe inside his home.
Following the incident reported at Dal Ponte’s house, Weasel’s was destroyed by fire Dec. 31, 2011. Dal Ponte passed away at age 63 in April 2014.
Frausto, 42, who previously was sent to prison and is on the list of witnesses to testify against Hughes, faced felony charges in Oneida County of first-degree reckless injury, armed burglary and armed robbery with threat of force related to the incident at Dal Ponte’s house. The Oneida County case against Frausto had been consolidated with the prosecution of cases he faced in other counties.
Online court records note other felony cases are pending against Hughes with multiple burglary charges he faces in Outagamie and Calumet counties.