Prosecution seeks to add charges in Hess murder-for-hire trial
The prosecution in the second of Gregory Allen Hess' two murder-for-hire trials sought in a Monday motion to add lesser charges and make inadmissable the fact Hess was acquitted in the first trial, according to court documents.
Hess, 48, of Hoff Road in North Codorus Township, was accused in 2014 of hiring Calvin L. Jones Jr. to kill his estranged wife's paramour, and then hiring fellow inmate Michael Crampton to kill Jones, and then hiring other fellow inmate Deansae Bryant to kill Crampton.
The proceedings were split into two trials: the first alleged solicitation of murder would be one, and then the other two would be a different trial.
The first trial was held in May, and Hess was found not guilty of solicitation of first-degree murder and criminal use of a communications facility. Jury selection for the second trial is due to start Nov. 9, with York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness presiding over the case. Hess will be tried on two counts of criminal solicitation of first-degree murder and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and criminal use of a communications facility.
On Monday, the prosecution made a motion to add more charges against Hess. It seeks to add two counts of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault and one count each of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and criminal use of a communication facility with aggravated assault as the underlying felony.
The county argues the court has no reason not to allow this change, as assault is a lesser offense than murder and is also included in murder. That means this would not change what the county says are the underlying facts of the case, the prosecution argues. In plain terms, the prosecution wouldn't be trying to prove anything they weren't already trying to prove, they argue, and therefore Hess and his lawyers don't have to defend against anything they weren't already planning to.
The addition of these charges would mean that if the county fails to prove that Hess solicited murder in either instance — as they did in the first trial — they might still be able to prove he solicited the lesser charge of aggravated assault.
Inadmissable?: The prosecution in the motion also argued to make inadmissable in the second trial the fact Hess was acquitted of soliciting Jones to kill Christopher Ward, his estranged wife's lover. During the first trial, Hess admitted to hiring Jones to harm Ward — he just denied hiring Jones to kill him. The jury sided with Hess, finding there wasn't enough evidence to prove he had solicited murder.
The prosection states it's not going to talk during trial about the fact that Hess had been previously charged with solicitation of murder — they'll just say he tried to pay Crampton to kill Jones, who had been a witness against Hess in another matter, according to the court documents.
If the fact that Hess was acquitted is allowed to be brought up, the prosecution said, then the prosecution will use the fact that Hess admitted to hiring Jones to beat up Ward as evidence in this trial, according to documents.
Witness: The prosecution also sought to use a man named Mitchell Perez, who originally was presented as a possible defense witness, as a witness against Hess. Perez told police in May Hess had sent him a letter telling him to tell Farley Holt, Hess' attorney, that Crampton — who's also known as Mike Jones — told Perez he'd made up that Hess had asked him to kill Calvin Jones. Perez voluntarily handed over the letter to police.
According to court documents, Hess' letter told Perez to say "(Crampton) told (Perez) he fabricated a story to the DA on some old white dude" and told Perez "I'll need you at two trials."
Perez told police he'd never spoken to Crampton before, according to documents. He said Hess was going to pay him $5,000 to $10,000 for the false testimony.
The prosecution says this is evidence of Hess' "consciousness of guilt" and wants the court to allow them to include the letter and Perez's testimony in the upcoming trial.
Defense motion: Also on Monday, Hess' attorneys filed a motion saying some letters and writings that should have been turned over to the defense before the first trial were not handed over and thus shouldn't be admissable in this second trial. It does not specify what letters or writings they're talking about.
The motion also calls for the prosecution to turn over testimony from Bryant and other witnesses by Oct. 26. That's the day both motions will be heard by the judge.
Background: In Hess' first trial, which began May 18 with jury selection, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker tried to convince jurors Hess paid Calvin L. Jones Jr. $1,900 to kill Ward, who was romantically involved with Hess' wife. Jones instead went to police.
Hess' second trial will encompass allegations Hess subsequently tried to hire two fellow York County Prison inmates to kill two jailhouse "hit men" who became police informants.
In the second case, police allege Hess — who co-owns Keystone Restorations & Builders Inc. — was being held in York County Prison when he offered fellow inmate Crampton $15,000 to kill Jones. That inmate, like Jones, went to authorities, according to court documents.
Hess was charged a third time after he allegedly tried to hire inmate Bryant to kill Crampton, documents state.
Police allege Hess instructed his son, Toby Allen Hess, to give $500 to Bryant's girlfriend as partial payment on the agreed-upon hit. The son remains charged with solicitation to commit murder.
Toby Hess, 20, also is charged with conspiracy to intimidate a witness for allegedly taking a photograph of Jones during his father's preliminary hearing on the first case.
Bryant also is charged with solicitation to commit murder and related offenses.
Common Pleas Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI issued a gag order in Hess' cases, meaning neither the prosecution nor the defense can comment.
— Reach Sean Cotter at firstname.lastname@example.org.