Hess sentenced to 12 to 24 years

Sean Philip Cotter

Judge Harry Ness listened to a couple of people tell the court Thursday morning Gregory Hess was a good guy who contributes to society and shouldn't spend much if any time in jail on the testimony of jailhouse snitches.

The judge wasn't moved, saying he was concerned about Hess' "retaliatory approach" that seems to be the way Hess deals with problems that face him.

"You only have only one solution," Ness said to Hess. "Kill the problem, kill the people."

He then sentenced Hess to a total of 12 to 24 years in state prison for Hess' role in two murder-for-hire plots.

Gregory Hess

After six hours of deliberation spanning two days in November, a 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. Ness sentenced him to 6 to 12 years each for the solicitation and conspiracy charges, time to be served consecutively. A sentence of 1 to 2 years for the other charge will be served consecutively with that time.

Background: Law enforcement said Hess tried to hire fellow inmate Michael Crampton in 2014 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, 48, Hoff Road in North Codorus Township, 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 trial 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. Hess' son, Toby, and Bryant are both co-defendants in this case. Both testified in exchange for consideration in their own cases.

Hess himself addressed the court, denying the charges against him, and saying that he was an "unconventional defendant" because of his contributions to society as a business owner, so he asked for an "unconventional sentence." He and a couple of people who spoke positively for Hess' character said the "jailhouse snitches" shouldn't be trusted.

Ness didn't feel that should lead to a lesser sentence.

"There's a great deal of charm in calling (Crampton and Lutrell) 'turds of society,' which is a pretty accurate description of them," the judge said, addressing Hess. "But you were still convicted."

Hess sat quietly after the judge handed down his sentence, but his daughter, Brooke, who testified during the trial, doubled over, crying.

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.

"I thank God the jury was intelligent enough to see through" the lies of the prosecutions witnesses in the first trial, said Farley Holt, one of Hess' attorneys. "I'm dumbfound as to how a jury (in this trial) could have believed the snitches."

Hess, who had remained free since his conviction and for months before it, will get credit for the 282 days he's served in jail related to this case.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com.