SKOWHEGAN — The murder trial of a Palmyra man charged in the 2013 bludgeoning death of another man in Detroit has been postponed for a third time, this time because he has switched court-appointed lawyers.

Jason Cote, 24, asked that his lawyer be changed because “he simply has not done as I ask him to do.”

Cote had been represented by Skowhegan attorney Philip Mohlar, and Cote said in his letter that representation lagged after Mohlar’s partner, John Alsop, left to become a prosecutor with the state attorney general’s office.

Cote is charged with murder in the bludgeoning death of Ricky Cole, 47, in July 2013.

The trial originally was scheduled for May 2014, then rescheduled for last September before it was postponed again until this spring. Cote’s request came in February and was granted in March. The trial is now set for November.

Attorney Stephen Smith, of the Augusta law firm Lipman & Katz, has been appointed by the court to represent Cote. Smith did not return calls Wednesday for comment on the case.


Since “the loss of attorney Alsop,” Cote wrote in his letter, representation did a 180-degree turn for the worse. He said that led to a breakdown in communication, trust and confidence.

In his motion to withdraw from the case, Mohlar agreed, noting that “communication between attorney and client has broken down to the point that it is no longer possible” to represent him effectively.

Mohlar on Wednesday said it is not unusual for attorneys and their clients to “develop different perspectives” on a case.

“Occasionally they get to a point where it makes more sense to terminate the attorney-client relationship,” Mohlar said. “We were at a point where it made sense for him to have new counsel.”

The fact that Alsop now prosecutes major crimes as an assistant attorney general made it “an unusual situation,” Mohlar added.

Cote’s request is considered a waiver of his right to a speedy trial, the court determined. Cote was advised of his right by the court but told that his change of lawyers probably would delay the case further, according to court documents.


Cote is charged with the intentional, knowing or depraved indifference murder in Cole’s bludgeoning death. Cote is alleged to have beaten Cole, 47, with a pipe in Cole’s mobile home at 24 Main St. in Detroit.

Cote has pleaded not guilty to the charge. He remains in custody at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, held without bail and awaiting trial.

Mohlar said Cote has agreed to the delay in the case, noting that his lawyers need more time to mount a good case in his defense.

The trial originally had been scheduled for May 2014, but objections by Alsop about the state’s delay in delivering evidence from two reports on the case forced a judge to reschedule it. The trial had been rescheduled for September in Somerset County Superior Court, and jury selection was set to begin when Mohlar asked that it be rescheduled because of Alsop’s departure.

Mohlar said he had to go back over details of the case, which Alsop had handled.

Detectives with the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit found Cole dead July 18, 2013, in the blood-spattered mobile home. Cole had a fractured skull, extensive blood loss and deep internal injuries, according to the autopsy report. The medical examiner concluded that Cole had died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.


Cote entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment Sept. 13, 2013. Lawyers in April 2014 failed to reach agreement on a plea deal.

Police said in court documents that Cote was high on drugs when he arrived at Cole’s home. A day earlier, Cote snorted methadone and Xanax at a friend’s home on Dogtown Road in Palmyra, according to the court affidavit. He later was dropped off at Cole’s mobile home, allegedly to get more drugs.

According to court documents, police found blood drops and spatter throughout the residence — from the outdoor deck and front door to the kitchen ceiling, walls, TV, couch and to the ceiling above the spot where Cole lay.

Witnesses later told Maine State Police investigators that a metal pipe found in a nearby pond was one Cole had kept next to his couch.

The blood spatter evidence indicates Cole was struck while he was seated on the couch and then struck again several times while lying on his back, which is how he was when police found him, according to investigators.

Police also found tool marks, possibly from the pipe, on a laptop computer and in the ceiling above Cole’s body. Damage to the ceiling tiles “were consistent with at least four strikes from a weapon in motion to the general area of the victim’s head,” according to court documents.


DNA analysis of all the blood samples taken from inside the home determined they were Cole’s. DNA samples taken from Cote’s clothing the day after the murder matched the DNA from Cole’s body.

Justice William Horton is handling the case for the state. Cote faces 25 years to life in prison if he is found guilty.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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