Time-served for would-be hit man in York murder-for-hire saga
Deonsae Bryant testified during the murder-for-hire trial of former York-area businessman Greg Hess that he was fully prepared to murder a man on Hess' behalf in exchange for money and a job.
And Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness didn't let Bryant forget it Friday afternoon when sentencing him to time-served.
"You were this close to committing a first-degree murder," Ness said. "Your position was, it's OK because you needed the money."
The judge said he fears that "if you want something, you'll take it an any cost."
Bryant on Friday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and — because he cooperated with prosecutors and testified against Hess — was sentenced to time-served to 23 months in York County Prison, with a consecutive eight years of probation.
'You're mine': Bryant, 31, of York, has spent a total of about 10 months locked up and was expected to be released Friday evening. But before wishing Bryant luck and sending him on his way, the judge imparted a strongly worded warning.
"You're mine during your entire period of your probation," Ness said, adding that if Bryant commits any minor infraction, "I'll lock you up for that eight years."
Chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday noted "one misstep on his part" would likely mean a very long prison stint for Bryant.
"I can only hope that no one else tries to do what Greg Hess did," Sunday said. Had Hess chosen better hit men, people would be dead, the prosecutor said. He noted drily that there are better ways to achieve conflict resolution.
Defense attorney John Hamme said Bryant was happy with the agreed-upon resolution.
"He's ready to move on," Hamme said.
The background: In January, Hess was sentenced to 12 to 24 years in state prison. He was called the "$10 Million Man" for being given the highest bail amount of any defendant in York County history.
Police said Hess, 48, of Hoff Road in North Codorus Township, hired Calvin L. Jones Jr. to kill his then-wife's boyfriend, but Jones instead took that information to York County Drug Task Force officers he knew.
Police, with Jones' help, set up a sting operation in which the targeted boyfriend agreed to be made up with fake blood, and a photo was taken of him appearing to be dead. Jones then met with Greg Hess at a York-area restaurant and showed him the photo, after which police arrested the businessman.
Greg Hess was charged with soliciting a homicide and was committed to York County Prison. In May, a jury acquitted him on that first case.
But by that time, prosecutors had charged Greg Hess for soliciting two other murder plots. At his second trial, held in November, jurors convicted him of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and using a telephone to further his criminal scheme.
'Kill the problem': Jurors determined that Hess hired Michael Crampton to kill Jones when he realized Jones was working with investigators, then later hired Bryant to kill Crampton because Crampton was working with prosecutors.
At Hess' sentencing hearing in January, Judge Ness said he had concerns about the man's "retaliatory approach" in facing problems.
"You only have one solution," Ness told the man. "Kill the problem, kill the people."
Hess' son, Toby Hess, was charged with witness intimidation after authorities said he took Jones' photo during his father's preliminary hearing. He was later charged with murder-solicitation and conspiracy offenses after he allegedly delivered $500 to Bryant's girlfriend on behalf of his incarcerated father, prosecutors have said.
Charges against Toby Hess were eventually dropped.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.