SALT LAKE CITY — Nellie Sefo was hoping against all hope that the charges against her son and six others would be dropped Thursday.

"I know everybody is wrong, but I was hoping something positive would come out of this," she said. "I thought today was the day I hope everything will clear, everything will stop and everybody will start over."

Sefo's son, Ieti Nuusila, was one of the seven defendants charged in March with brutally attacking David James "D.J." Bell and his partner, Dan Fair, in their South Salt Lake home after a late-night party on July 4, 2008. Bell was initially charged with kidnapping two children during that party, but was acquitted in a subsequent trial.

The defendants are asking a judge to remove the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office as prosecutors in the case. Attorneys say they never would have advised their clients to testify as victims in Bell's kidnapping trial had they known prosecutors would turn around and file charges against them.

Prosecutors did not originally plan to file assault charges against the seven, but reconsidered while Bell's trial was ongoing, testified prosecutor Angela Micklos, who handled the Bell case.

Micklos said she knew some of her potential witnesses were the subject of a re-opened investigation, but didn't know any of the details until later.

"I became aware (the prosecutor) was investigating the case so I was screened off from the case," Micklos said Thursday. "I wasn't to discuss the case with the prosecutor."

But Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller took the stand again Thursday and testified after Micklos. She said numerous times that all of the prosecutors in the office share information so that they can do "the right thing" in the cases they handle.

"We don't have rules saying you have to keep information separate," Miller said. "Our job is not to zealously represent clients, victims, it is to seek justice. … Any information we have is important to pass on to prosecutors in other cases."

The seven defense attorneys in the case jumped on what they saw as an apparent discrepancy in the testimony and united in repeatedly calling the conflicting testimony a clear demonstration of the inherent conflict of interest the district attorney's office has.

"The conflict can't be erased," defense attorney Charles Corry said. "The bell has been rung and it will continue to pervade the proceedings."

Both Micklos and Miller said that they didn't know if anyone notified the attorneys that had been appointed to represent the four now-defendants that were going to testify at trial that the individuals had gone from victims to suspects in the eyes of the prosecutors. It was an oversight Corry called "problematic."

"You can't have a single agency representing contrary interests at the same time," he said. "Sharing information, utilizing the same information against them to prosecute them and, in effect, not even telling their attorneys … this makes it clear there is a conflict."

Many of the attorneys have already filed motions to have the charges against their various clients dismissed.

"The motion to dismiss is more powerful," defense attorney Taylor Hartley said. "It's a stronger disincentive for other prosecutors to touch it, because it was based on constitutional issues."

Third District Judge Robert Faust said he will take the issue under advisement. He is expected to make a decision before the next hearing on Sept. 20.

e-mail: emorgan@desnews.com