Cash-strapped ex-NBL star hires new lawyer for Gladstone fraud trial
FORMER NBL star, Derek Rucker is out of pocket despite being accused of committing a $20,000 fraud against the Gladstone Amateur Basketball Association.
Defence lawyer Rio Ramos was recently appointed to appear for Mr Rucker in yesterday's mention before Gladstone Magistrates Court as he could not afford to pay his previous lawyer.
The former Port City Power Basketball chairman and men's coach, was charged in 2016 with dishonestly gaining a financial benefit from his employer between July 28 and November 19, 2015; and committing fraud (dishonestly obtaining property) between September 6 and October 1.
While the matter has been before the courts, Mr Rucker, 51, was previously represented by Brisbane solicitor, Robert Burns, who was preparing to contest the charges on November 16.
However, Ms Ramos told the courtroom yesterday her client was no longer represented by Mr Burns, and would soon be represented by herself as her firm was able to offer a lower price.
Ms Ramos asked if the magistrate could "vacate" the current trial date; allowing time to read over the evidence and prepare, given the trial date was only three weeks away.
She said she was not yet in possession of the brief of evidence of the alleged offending - likely to still be in Mr Burns' possession - information that she could not proceed without.
Ms Ramos asked that the trial be de-listed for her firm to read and gather the information needed to decided how to proceed with Mr Rucker's matters.
"We don't have enough time to prepare," she said.
However the request was refused by Gladstone Magistrate Melanie Ho.
Ms Ho said if the trial was de-listed there was no room in the court's calendar for it come before the court again this year.
She said Mr Rucker "needed to understand these are matters that need to proceed".
"He had a lawyer ..." Ms Ho said.
"He has had ample time - this has been going on since May last year."
Ms Ho also pointed out that Ms Ramos was not yet formally engaged to represent Mr Rucker in a new trial.
"You have only been engaged today for this mention," Ms Ho said.
Ms Ramos said Mr Rucker still needed to provide her firm with some documentation - but she would be representing him in future appearances.
Police prosecutor Balan Selvadurai said prosecutions were ready to proceed with five police witnesses to give evidence at the trial including the arresting officer - who will travel to attend.
Ms Ho said she would not de-list the trial at this stage but would re-mention the matter on November 6 to review its progress.
She said Mr Rucker would need to appear in person.