INDIANAPOLIS (Court TV) – As the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against reinstating Richard Allen’s original defense team, Allen’s then-lead defense attorney, Bill Lebrato, sat in the courtroom texting Allen’s wife, Kathy.
“When I found out that the other attorneys were reinstated, I let her know right away,” he tells me by phone the day after the Supreme Court hearing and swift ruling on January 18. “She really wanted to be there…I wasn’t completely surprised by yesterday. I didn’t really like the way it happened,” he says.
Lebrato, like the general public, had to apply for a ticket to be let into the hearing in the courtroom inside Indiana’s state capitol. He says the tickets given to the Indiana Public Defender Council, which he is a member of, were given to other attorneys.
The high court’s decision came less than four hours after the hearing wrapped.
Me: Can you share with me how Kathy responded to the court’s ruling?
Lebrato: “She didn’t comment about the other attorneys being reinstated. She just expressed her gratitude to me, Robert and Suzy.” (Lebrato is referring to co-counsel Robert Scremin and investigator Suzy Moeller)
Me: Did you ever talk with Richard Allen about his desire to reinstate Bradley Rozzi and Andrew Baldwin?
Lebrato: “We never really addressed who he wanted as his lawyers, nor did he ever say: I don’t want you guys I want my old lawyers, nor did he ever say: I don’t want my old lawyers, I want you guys…I know that that was probably Mr. Allen’s wishes [on] October 11th, but I can’t say that that remained the same… up until yesterday.”
Lebrato is referencing a typed letter dated October 11, 2023, given to Special Judge Fran Gull. It was signed by Richard Allen and urged Gull not to take action against his appointed public defenders, Rozzi and Baldwin. The attorneys had been notified by Gull the day before to stop working on the case after the leak of sensitive crime scene photos, and a hearing was then set for October 19th in Gull’s Allen County Courtroom. A contentious debate in Gull’s chambers hours before that hearing ended with Rozzi and Baldwin off the case and set up the legal battle that ended in the Supreme Court.
“He didn’t write the letter. Mr. Rozzi prepared the letter and had Mr. Allen sign. It is my understanding. It was typed. And I’m assuming Mr. Allen doesn’t have access to a computer or a typewriter in the Department of Corrections,”
Lebrato says he thinks that when Allen found out that his attorneys would be off his case, he may not have had the understanding or legal concepts to know he would automatically be appointed other public defenders. “He may have been thinking that he and his wife were going to have to hire private attorneys or he wasn’t going to have representation. I don’t know. But that’s strictly my opinion, my belief, based on things I’ve seen and heard,” Lebrato said.
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Rozzi and Baldwin previously asserted in court filings that Allen’s mental and physical condition had deteriorated after his arrest because of what they called his inhumane treatment in a maximum-security prison as he awaits trial.
“His mental health and physical health has improved from the very first time I saw him October 31st, 2023. I mean at that point, he looked extremely thin, pale, just didn’t look good. He has gotten better,” Lebrato says Allen weighed 206 pounds at his arrest, dropping to 122 pounds at his lowest. “He’s still very thin, but he’s gained some weight. He’s still under 150 pounds.”
In a motion filed earlier this month to transfer Allen out of prison and house him in a county jail where most pre-trial defendants are held, Lebrato’s team asserted that Rozzi and Baldwin’s Odinist theory of the crime had merit.
IN ODIN WE TRUST
Rozzi and Baldwin previously asserted in court filings that a group of white nationalist Odinists more likely killed Abigail Williams and Liberty German and that law enforcement failed to follow up on potential Odinist suspects.
“Honestly, when I first heard about it and that these attorneys were going down this road, Lebrato said, “I thought it was hocus pocus. I was wrong. I was a hundred percent wrong. This is a real thing, and it’s a dangerous thing.”
Lebrato says Allen has no ties to Odinism. “They searched all of his social media accounts, his computers, his phone. He has no ties to this cult whatsoever that they can establish,” Lebrato said.
Lebrato, who was Allen’s lead defense attorney for 79 days, admits he hasn’t been through all the discovery in the case but says he, too, saw evidence of Odinist prison guards in charge of Allen at the Westville Correctional Facility.
“Sergeant Randy Jones was one of the ones wearing ‘In Odin we Trust’ patches on his Department of Correction uniform, said Lebrato. “He was ordered to take that off. He then had a tattoo put on his face, and it’s Odin spear. And he was in charge of watching Mr. Allen while he was at Westville.”
When I asked him whether Richard Allen would get a fair trial, he responded, “It’s going to be hard.”
“You asked me last night if I thought my client committed this crime, and I do not, but that doesn’t matter,” he said.
Lebrato says he didn’t follow the Delphi double murders case before being assigned to it last year. “I deal with nothing but murder cases. I was just in the Supreme Court yesterday arguing a quadruple homicide I did here in Allen County that involved a two-year-old, a three-year-old and a five-year-old child, and then their mother and that got no publicity outside of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.”
The death penalty-qualified Lebrato describes Allen as calm, soft-spoken, and “totally respectful.” Lebrato said he always shows gratitude for those working on his defense.
His wife, “Kathy, stands by him,” Lebrato said as he questioned the timing of Allen’s October 2022 arrest.
“There’s something to the fact that he’s arrested living in that small town that whole time, 24 days before the new sheriff election. That just bothers me somehow, Lebrato said, “I mean, it’s not just coincidence.””
Lebrato agrees with Rozzi and Baldwin that the investigation into the 2017 double murders was flawed and says his team had prepared their own petition for a Frank’s Hearing – alleging there were problems with the information used to obtain the search warrant for Allen’s home.
“Ours was similar to theirs but not the same. There were some differences,” he says.
Lebrato says he’s handled 75-100 murder cases and taken 35-50 of them to trial, including several death penalty cases, but in his 25-year career, he’s never seen a pre-trial defendant treated as harshly as Richard Allen.
“His hands were handcuffed to some box connected to his chest. I mean, it looked so horribly uncomfortable. I couldn’t shake his hand. I couldn’t have him sign anything. They refused to unshackle him for our safety. He’s 120 pounds.”
Lebrato says he’s confident Allen is in capable hands with Rozzi and Baldwin back on the case and said they are both good attorneys.
“But would I have liked to stay on the case? It’s a fascinating case, and it’s rare that you have such a high-profile case where you honestly think you have an innocent client. Now, maybe I’m crazy thinking that, I don’t know, but that’s my opinion,” he said.
It’s unclear how Richard Allen was notified of the change to his defense team following the Supreme Court’s ruling, but Lebrato said it would be improper for him to visit Allen now. “I did draft him a letter just saying this is what happened, and I’m sorry,” Lebrato concluded.
Richard Allen is facing four counts of murder and two counts of kidnapping in the deaths of Abigail Williams and Liberty German. The 8th graders were walking on Delphi’s Monon High Bridge when they were encountered by a man who ordered them “down the hill.” Video found on Libby’s cellphone captured 42 seconds of that encounter. Allen’s trial is scheduled to begin October 15 in Carroll County, Indiana.
For more news on the Delphi Murders and Richard Allen’s trial, click here.