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Yates will go to trial this month

Accused bank robber Michael Roger Yates’ case appears ready to go to trial as early as next week.

Yates, a Manchester resident, has been in custody awaiting trial since he was arrested Aug. 28 in Port Orchard. Police had been searching for Yates ever since a man matching his description robbed the Peninsula Credit Union in Belfair on Aug. 23 and escaped with approximately $18,000. When Yates was arrested, he was at the A&W on Mile Hill Drive, showing off a classic car he allegedly bought with the stolen money.

Yates was charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree possession of stolen property.

Yates’ trial was supposed to have begun last month, but a last-minute attorney change made it impossible to go forward as planned.

Mason County has only two contract attorneys who can be assigned to indigent cases. According to court officials, both attorneys had a conflict of interest with a witness who was scheduled to appear during the trial. Therefore, the court had to arrange for another lawyer — Robert Quillian of Olympia — to take over Yates’ case.

“I just happened to be in the courtroom at the time and they asked if I was available,” Quillian said. He went on to say he had once been a contract lawyer in Mason County “a long time ago” and still did a lot of work down there.

Quillian appeared before the court last Wednesday to announce his intention to go forward with the trial sometime in the next few weeks.

The Mason County court scheduling system is less formal than that in Kitsap County. Because there is only one courtroom, all cases on the calendar for a single day are taken as they come — there is no specific time assigned for anyone. Trials operate along similar guidelines.

“Usually they try cases back-to-back,” Quillian said. “When they run out of one, they start another.”

That means while Yates’ trial could start as early as next Tuesday, it could also end up starting much later in the month, depending on how long the other trials go for. Extra-heavy regular court calendars could also slow progress — Quillian said trials are often mixed into more mundane matters, such as pre-trial hearings and arraignments.

Quillian said, in the end, he will only know the trial start date for sure after the court calls him and tells him when it is. Sometimes, he said, he only gets a few days notice.

“They give as much notice as they can,” Quillian explained.

The trial is currently estimated to last three or four days. If convicted, Yates faces 20 years to life in prison, depending on his criminal record and any possible mitigating factors.

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