Opening statements given in Hess murder-for-hire trial
The convoluted criminal allegations against York business owner Gregory Allen Hess can be summed up thusly:
Hess hired a man to kill his wife's lover, hired another man to kill the first hit man, then hired a third man to kill the second hit man.
During his opening statement Tuesday afternoon, chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday told jurors they will hear from the alleged hit men and also hear recorded conversations and see letters between Hess and others that prove Hess — who's been called the $10 Million Man for having the highest bail amount in York County history — is guilty.
"Greg Hess is sitting here because he repeatedly tried to circumvent the legal system," Sunday told jurors.
Sunday laid out for jurors the prosecution's road map for the trial, which resumes Thursday morning with witness testimony.
He said that in April 2014, Hess had a pending criminal case and "decided Calvin Jones Jr. was going to die" so Jones could not testify against Hess.
Sunday did not explain to jurors how Jones fit into that case. Prosecutors alleged Hess wanted his wife's paramour killed and hired Jones to do it. Instead, Jones — a York County Drug Task Force informant — told his police handlers about Hess and agreed to work with police to prove it, according to previous trial testimony.
Acquitted at 1st trial: Hess was acquitted of that solicitation to commit murder charge in May, at his first trial.
Sunday told jurors that Hess enlisted the help of his teenage son to get photos of Jones, then reached out to fellow York County Prison inmate Michael Crampton and offered him "thousands of dollars" to kill Jones.
But like Jones, Crampton also went to the York County District Attorney's Office about Hess' offer, after which Hess' bail was revoked and he was taken back to prison, Sunday said.
That's when Hess began to panic and suspect Crampton was double-crossing him, the prosecutor said, spurring Hess to find another prison inmate, Deonsae Bryant, who agreed to kill Crampton for $15,000 and a "legit" job.
Because both Hess and Bryant were locked up, Hess had to enlist the help of his son, Toby Hess, to deliver $500 to Bryant's girlfriend, according to Sunday.
'All liars': But defense attorney Suzanne Smith told jurors during her opening statement that the purported would-be hit men "are all liars."
They are seasoned in the prison culture and knew the best ticket out of prison was to provide information to the DA's Office about a high-profile crime, she said.
Inmates knew about the Hess case when he was brought in, making him a target, according to Smith, who said they saw him as their ticket out of prison.
Greg Hess was "like a fish out of water" in prison, vulnerable to "sophisticated street-smart individuals," she said, adding her client didn't know who to trust — "and, more importantly, who not to trust."
The charges: Greg Hess, 48, of Hoff Road in North Codorus Township, is charged with two counts of solicitation to commit murder — one for Jones, the other for Crampton — as well one count each of conspiracy to commit murder and using an electronic device to further a crime.
He is co-owner of Keystone Restorations & Builders Inc.
Bryant and Toby Hess also are criminally charged as co-defendants, but both are expected to testify against Greg Hess for consideration in their own cases.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.