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Hess guilty in 2 murder plots, will remain free until sentencing
Gregory Allen Hess was found guilty Friday of three of the four charges he was facing stemming from two murder-for-hire plots.
After six hours of deliberation spanning two days, the jury found him guilty of one count each of solicitation of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and criminal use of a communications facility. He was acquitted of an additional count of solicitation to commit first-degree murder.
Hess showed little reaction to the verdict when it was read at 11 a.m. Friday morning. He continued to gaze down and to the left, even as his lawyers stood up and began to collect their belongings to leave.
All of those are grade-one felonies, each carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison. Judge Harry Ness, who presided over the trial, scheduled Hess to be sentenced at 9 a..m. Dec. 31.
The case: Law enforcement alleged Hess tried to hire fellow inmate Michael Crampton to kill Calvin Jones Jr. to prevent Jones from testifying against Hess in another case.
After Crampton went to law enforcement with that information, police said, Hess tried to have Crampton killed. The prosecution said Hess asked fellow inmate Edward Luttrell to find him someone to do so, so Luttrell hired fellow inmate Deonsae Bryant.
The two-week-long trial that wrapped up Friday morning covered both plots. The solicitation charge the jury found Hess guilty of was regarding the hiring of Crampton — the jury decided Hess had hired Crampton to kill Jones.
The other three charges were related to the hit on Crampton. The jury ruled Hess had engaged in a conspiracy to murder the man — and that he'd used a phone in doing so; that's the "criminal use of a communication facility" charge — but did not find him guilty of soliciting Crampton's murder.
Crampton, Luttrell and Bryant all testified for the prosecution.
The reason why Hess wanted Crampton to kill Jones is because Jones was testifying in a separate case that Hess had hired him to kill Hess' then-wife's lover. Hess was acquitted on those charges in a trial earlier this year.
Jury question: About a half an hour before this jury announced its verdict Friday morning, the jury asked the judge to answer a question relating to the solicitation charges: In order to solicit, does Hess have to have been the initiator?
The judge and lawyers discussed that briefly before Ness brought the jury back in to tell them what he'd decided.
"The short answer is: It's for you to decide what the common-sense definition is of requesting somebody to do something is," he said. He said it seemed to him "in order to request something, you must be the initiator."
He noted this wasn't the case with the conspiracy charge.
What's next: Hess will remain free until his sentencing, Ness ruled. The judge said Hess had shown up to all his criminal proceedings, even after his bail was lowered from $10 million to $1 nominal bail, and, despite the prosecution's objections, he hadn't proved a danger to the community.
"The only community he’s been a danger to is the prison community, up to this point," Ness said.
A little while after the verdict was read, both sides briefly addressed the media outside the York County Judicial Center. York County District Attorney's Office spokesman Kyle King said the prosecution and state police were "ecstatic" at the outcome. He thanks he jury for their service, and declined further comment.
Farley Holt, one of Hess' three defense attorneys, said he would love to comment, but was prevented by the gag order, which remained in effect.
Hess' son, Toby, and Bryant are both co-defendants in this case. Both testified for the prosecution, and will receive consideration for doing so.