The ex-prosecutor is charged with beating, terrorizing his wife.
Veteran Sacramento defense attorney Richard William Hamlin is about to embark upon the most important trial of his 17-year legal career.
“I’ve trained all my life for one case, and this is it,” the 44-year-old Hamlin said while sitting in the El Dorado County jail after his arrest last year on domestic violence charges.
He has lost custody of his four children, ages 16, 12, 9 and 6; his wife of 20 years has left him; and his million-dollar mansion overlooking Folsom Lake has been sold.
If convicted, the former prosecutor faces 15 years to life in prison. Hamlin maintains he is innocent of beating and terrorizing his wife, but he is the first to admit his story is hard to believe.
Hamlin, who is defending himself, can’t wait to tell his side of the story, but El Dorado County prosecutors are going to court this afternoon to get a gag order to silence him and everyone else involved the case.
Prosecutors have already won a temporary restraining order preventing Hamlin from discussing his case with news reporters and posting additional “open letters” on the Internet.
In December, a former FBI agent posted a letter from Hamlin soliciting information about a man involved in the development of biological weapons research during the Korean War.
Now the cult’s leader, the man may be an expert on brainwashing, hypnosis and other forms of mind control, Hamlin said.
“I’m getting concerned about whether we’re getting too much information out there in the public,” El Dorado Superior Court Judge Eddie T. Keller said last week when he imposed the restraining order.
Deputy District Attorney Vicki Ashworth wants Hamlin and his co-counsel, Assistant Public Defender Robert Banning, prohibited from providing information about the case aside from confirming the “date and place of trial.”
Prosecutors are intentionally releasing “misstatements and misrepresentations” to “wrongly discredit (Hamlin) to gain an unfair advantage” before the trial, Banning said.
Two days before Hamlin was arrested at his home Feb. 28, 2004, he and his wife, Susan Rae Hamlin, walked into the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office to report that Susan Hamlin conspired with a “satanic cult to murder her husband,” according to a sheriff’s office transcript of the interview with the couple.
“Susan decided she would go along with the murder of her husband Richard so that she could become High Priestess,” according to the transcript.
But she told deputies that she changed her mind about killing her husband as a satanic “trophy.” And that earlier she met a cult member named “Rock” in a Starbucks parking lot in Granite Bay and told him she refused to go along with the plan.
Susan Hamlin, who had three cracked ribs and a broken nose when she talked to sheriff’s deputies, said he punched her and then drove off in a red Lexus.
“I then re-interviewed Susan alone while tape recording the interview. Susan waived her Miranda rights and again made the same statement and confession,” Deputy Greg Murphy said in his report.
In court proceedings and in interviews last year, prosecutors claim that Susan Hamlin went along with the satanic story out of fear of her husband. Neither Susan Hamlin nor anyone else has been charged in the incident.
Richard Hamlin is expected to go to trial in mid-April on charges of torture, spousal abuse, making death threats, negligent discharge of a firearm and child endangerment.
He repeatedly threatened his wife with a handgun, “placing it in her mouth on one occasion,” prosecutors said in court documents used to increase Hamlin’s bail from $300,000 to $1 million.
Hamlin forced his wife “to sleep by his side while the defendant holds a loaded handgun pressed against her chest with the safety in the off position,” said Deputy District Attorney Joe Alexander, who handled the bail motion.
In a jailhouse interview last June, Hamlin told The Bee that the reason his wife recanted her initial statement to detectives was to avoid arrest.
“The only way out of criminal responsibility was to blame me,” Hamlin said.
“It is going to be my word against hers,” Hamlin said of his 47-year-old wife.
Days after Hamlin’s arrest, people who work in Sacramento Superior Court where Hamlin made his living were shocked, but some were not surprised.
The couple are well known and were seen often in public at expensive restaurants and popular midtown nightclubs. They would throw lavish parties attended by judges, politicians and U.S. attorneys.
Susan Hamlin, who graduated from McGeorge School of Law at the top of her class, is also a lawyer, but for the most part was a stay-at-home mom.
In 2001, Richard Hamlin said, he earned $700,000.
But in late 2002, he said, “family problems” began to surface and in a year he was talking to an attorney about filing for bankruptcy.
Susan Hamlin would repeatedly confide in others about coping with a troubled upbringing in Fresno, court records show.
Richard Hamlin, who was frequently moving into different law offices, threw fits of anger at clients who didn’t pay their legal bills, other lawyers said.
Two weeks before his arrest, Hamlin shot himself in the leg at his house attempting to scare away what Susan Hamlin reported were cult members in disguise.
Hamlin’s spiraling nosedive followed what for the most part was a successful legal career.
Among his clients as a defense attorney were two aides to then-Gov. Pete Wilson, who were charged in separate drunken driving incidents, in 1994 and 1999.
From 1985 to 1989 Hamlin was a deputy district attorney in Sacramento County and prosecuted a number of high-profile cases, including Paul John Schneider, an imprisoned Aryan Brotherhood member who was convicted in 1989 of attempting to murder a Folsom prison guard.
Since his arrest, Hamlin has been housed in isolation from other inmates because of threats of retaliation from the Aryan Brotherhood.
In jail and in court Hamlin remains lucid and in good spirits.
“I believe in the system, and I believe I will be found not guilty,” Hamlin said.
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