Aubrey Trail is back in a Nebraska jail and returned to court Wednesday, where he told a federal judge he wants to represent himself at trial on 14 federal charges for allegedly swindling a Kansas couple of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The 51-year-old is a person of interest in the November disappearance and death of Sydney Loofe. He has a penchant for calling the news media with details and confessions. His letter to a judge led to the hearing.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart said she interpreted Trail's letter, which hasn't been made public, as frustrations over being housed in Leavenworth, Kansas, and how that has made it more difficult for him to communicate with his court-appointed attorney in Lincoln.
"Am I correct in interpreting it that way?" she asked Trail, who sat at the defense table in orange Saline County jail clothes, his arms and legs in chains.
"Yes, your honor, but," Trail started before Zwart cut him off.
"Do not say anything at this time that is going to incriminate you. But go ahead," she said.
Trail said: "I try to never incriminate myself."
But, he said, given that just 19 days remain until his scheduled trial in the fraud case and disagreements with his attorney, Korey Reiman, remain on the direction the case should take, he wanted to try to learn the rules of evidence in the jail's law library and represent himself.
Zwart spent much of the next 10 minutes advising him to reconsider, given that he might never get out of prison if convicted of even half the charges against him, which each carry the possibility of 10-year terms.
"You are facing a lot of time. You're not familiar with the law. You're not familiar with court procedure and you're not familiar with rules of evidence. I'm strongly urging you not to represent yourself in this matter," she said.
Trail said if he is kept at the jail in Wilber he has access to all the books he would need. He said he knows his behavior there was an issue before, but if he's allowed to stay he will be on his "best behavior."
"They will not have a single problem out of me," he said.
Zwart said she couldn't guarantee he would stay there. Where Trail is housed is up to the U.S. Marshals Office.
On Jan. 3, Trail was transferred to the Leavenworth Detention Center, a maximum-security facility in Kansas, after he stopped eating.
At the end of Wednesday's hearing, the judge decided not to make a decision yet so Trail has time to discuss the case with Reiman.
In a sealed affidavit, sent to the Journal Star from Trail last month, an FBI special agent laid out how Lincoln police investigators looking into Loofe's disappearance learned Nov. 26 of a Kansas antique dealer bringing a gun and $5,000 cash to a Beatrice parking lot to be delivered to Trail in Wilber.
They later learned the Hiawatha, Kansas, dealer had given Trail and Bailey Boswell, Trail's co-defendant, more than $400,000 in cash and antiques, believing they were costs associated with the sale of an 1879 gold coin the pair claimed was worth more than $1 million, prosecutors say.
Trail and Boswell are set for trial March 26 on charges of causing or inducing interstate travel in the commission of a fraud. Trail faces 14 counts and Boswell 10.
No one yet has been charged in the death of Loofe, who was with Boswell and Trail the night of her disappearance Nov. 15, after meeting Boswell on a dating app. The 24-year-old's remains were found in Clay County on Dec. 4.