A woman charged last month with murdering her 1-month-old son at a Williston hotel in April will be getting a new public defender.
Hannah Sage McMillin, 18, sent a letter in late July asking for a new attorney. She wrote to Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson that Donald Sauviac, who had been appointed to represent her, wasn’t giving her evidence when she’d asked and was more interested in publicity than representing her.
McMillin was originally charged in late April with a class A felony count of child abuse after the death of her young son in a hotel room. Her husband, 27-year-old Tank McMillin was arrested on the same charge.
But in July, prosecutors charged Hannah McMillin with a class AA felony count of murder. The upgraded charge came after an autopsy report was issued by the state Medical Examiner. The cause of death was suffocation, investigators wrote in charging documents.
The infant’s body was also bruised in several places, including the back, sides, feet, abdomen and buttocks, according to court records.
At a hearing Tuesday morning, McMillin reiterated her complaints. When Johnson asked if she still wanted a new public defender, she said she did.
“Absolutely, sir,” she said.
Sauviac said he didn’t oppose assigning a new attorney for McMillin. He said he had done everything he could to work with her, but that she was listening to other inmates in the jail rather than to his advice.
“Where this notion of me wanting press and publicity (comes from), nothing could be further from the truth,” Sauviac said.
Williams County State’s Attorney Marlyce Wilder asked Johnson to talk with McMillin about her decision.
“I think Ms. McMillin needs to understand she doesn’t get to pick her public defender,” Wilder said.
Johnson agreed to release Sauviac as public defender and have the state Public Defender’s Office in Valley City assign a new attorney. He also cautioned McMillin about listening to the wrong people about her defense.
Public defenders want to represent people who need help, and they have experience with the law and in the courtroom.
“The people in the jail don’t have those things,” Johnson told her.
He also warned her that he might not allow another switch.
“You have to understand you have to work with your attorney,” Johnson said.
McMillin’s trial date, which had been sent for September, will be rescheduled after a new attorney is assigned.