A lawyer representing accused kidnapper and sex offender has recused himself from the criminal case in an unusual decision that suggests behind-the-scenes turmoil as Tad Cummins prepared for his trial.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Cummins, 51, is facing charges of transporting a 15-year-old girl across state lines for the purpose of engaging in criminal sexual conduct, along with obstruction of justice, both felony charges. Cummins was formerly a teacher at Culleoka Unit High School in Maury County, Tennessee, where his victim attended, before he allegedly coerced the teen girl to leave the state. The two were on the run for 39 days before they were apprehended in Northern California, after a groundsworker who worked at a cabin where Cummins and his victims were staying recognized them from police reports.
The victim was reunited with her family in good health, but Cummins is accused of having sexual intercourse with her on multiple occasions, and he reportedly ran out of money while they were on the run — forcing the girl to eat wildflowers for nutrition.
The Tennessean reports that Cummins’ attorney Brent Horst has dropped out of the case, nearly two months after he initially filed a motion requesting to leave the case. According to the report U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger said during a hearing that Horst is concerned he may be under investigation in connection to his attempts to interview Cummins’ alleged victim.
In an interview with the Tennessean, the attorney was reticent while hinting that there was an untold story behind his decision.
“If the case were over I’d be happy to tell you the whole story because I’d love to give my side of what’s going,” he said. “I think it needs to be heard.
“Out of respect for not trying to muck up Mr. Cummins, the rest of his case, I’m not going to say anything until that’s all over.”
Horst told the news outlet that he had made attempts to interview the victim, as part of his responsibility as the suspect’s defense attorney.
Horst’s initial request to be removed from the case came two days after the judge issued an order that “neither defense counsel nor any relatives or associates of the defendant” could communicate with the teenager.
Alex Little, a Nashville-based attorney, told the Tennesseean that the judge’s order was unusual.
“Part of a defense attorney’s duty is to investigate the case, and that investigation can include soliciting information from the alleged victim,” Little said. “It is unusual and certainly not done in the ordinary course, for the court to issue an order prohibiting a defense attorney from speaking with witnesses, even if that witness is an alleged victim.”
Cummins had initially been assigned a public defender, but his family scraped together the money to hire Horst. Now, because “they don’t have anymore money,” according to judge Trauger, Cummins will be assigned an attorney.
His trial was initially set for April but will be delayed due to the changes in counsel.
[Feature image: Tad Cummins/Tennessee Bureau of Investigation]