Anthony Scott Axton’s motion for change of judge granted
KINGMAN – Judge Derek Carlisle granted Anthony Scott Axton’s motion to change judges for cause on Tuesday, a finding that will see the defendant’s case transferred to the court of Judge Doug Camacho.
Axton, 33, is alleged to have participated in an armed robbery of the Dollar General at 3665 Andy Devine Ave. on or about July 1, 2018. According to law enforcement, that incident involved shots fired at Kingman Police Department officers. He faces charges that include two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
Axton faces dozens of other felony counts for his reported participation in burglaries and robberies throughout the Kingman area, but it is the case with the attempted first-degree murder charges that the state has chosen to take to trial.
Axton claimed Judge Billy Sipe was “prejudiced” against him. In court documents, Axton quotes the judge from a judgment and sentencing hearing held for codefendant Francis William Allison in June. The judge rejected Allison’s plea deal, which would have seen him serve between 21 and 28 years in prison.
“‘Quite frankly, I believe that every single one of the defendants in these cases that committed these crimes should spend the rest of their life in prison and should receive sentences that’s going to guarantee that is going to happen,’” the transcript reads in quoting the judge from the June proceeding.
Axton’s attorney, Gregory Pridham, argued the statement above showed the judge had already made up his mind about sentencing without hearing arguments or evidence in regards to his client.
“I don’t believe that you can argue that a judge is being fair and impartial when he’s announcing to the world what he’s going to do as far as sentencing goes when my client hasn’t been found guilty,” he said.
Prosecutor Rod Albright said he believed the judge could remain fair and impartial. He said the issue boiled down to the “appearance of impropriety” stemming from press coverage. Albright said “the newspaper” might have misquoted or taken the judge’s statement out of context.
Carlisle said it would have been beneficial to have Judge Sipe testify to whether he could remain impartial and make decisions based on the evidence. The judge was not called to do so by the attorneys.
“When I look at the statements made by Judge Sipe, he is talking about ‘they’ being all the defendants having committed what he considered to be fairly serious or perhaps even atrocious crimes in the community that had fairly significant aggravating factors and because of that a very lengthy prison sentence, in fact life in prison, would be an appropriate sentence for all the defendants,” Carlisle said. “He did that not after having heard a trial, not after all of them had pled guilty and he’s received a presentencing report on all of them ...”
The judge then ruled that Axton proved Sipe demonstrated prejudice in connection with his case, and granted the motion for a change of judge.