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Court rules judge violated West End man's right to an attorney

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By Adam Brandolph
Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 6:00 p.m.

A West End man will get a new sentencing hearing because an Allegheny County judge violated his right to have an attorney, a Superior Court panel ruled Wednesday.

An Allegheny County jury found Bruce Smith, 23, guilty of criminal conspiracy, fleeing and eluding a police officer and three counts of endangering another person and an accident involving damage to an unattended vehicle for his role as a passenger in a car from which other passengers fired multiple gunshots, striking a man and a woman. He was sentenced to 17-34 years in prison.

During his sentencing hearing before Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen on Sept. 27, 2011, Smith told Machen that he no longer wanted to be represented by his court-appointed lawyer. The judge told him: “Well, we all have problems every day of the week, so suck it up.”

Superior Court Judge David N. Wecht reminded Machen in his opinion that the code of judicial conduct requires judges to be “patient, dignified and courteous,” and requesting to have a new lawyer is a Constitutional right.

Smith's new sentencing date has not been set.

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