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October 11, 2012

Bashara pleads guilty to solicitation of murder charge

Grosse Pointe Park man says he ‘foolishly and regrettably’ offered money for hit on handyman

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

Defendant Robert Bashara, 54, of Grosse Pointe Park, is likely to spend at least the next four to 11 years behind bars.

During a last-minute pretrial conference called the afternoon of Oct. 11 in front of 3rd Circuit Court Judge Bruce R. Morrow, Bashara pleaded guilty to a charge of solicitation to commit murder. In June, the property manager/businessman was charged with solicitation of murder for allegedly hiring someone to kill Joseph Gentz, the Grosse Pointe Park handyman who reportedly told police he killed Bashara’s wife, Jane Bashara, at her husband’s behest in January. Bashara has denied any involvement in his wife’s murder.

Lisa Lindsey, one of the Wayne County prosecuting attorneys handling the case, told Morrow that Bashara was pleading as charged and there would be no change or reduction in the charges. The prosecutors and Bashara’s defense attorney, Mark Kriger, only disagree on one of the offense variables — victimization of a victim, or predatory conduct. Lindsey said that would be resolved by the judge at sentencing. It’s important, because it will determine how much time Bashara would spend in prison. Morrow said Bashara is facing 51-85 months or 81-135 months, depending on the variable in question. Solicitation of murder, a felony, can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Brought into the court in a tan-colored suit, Bashara was placed under oath for the brief procedure. In response to Morrow’s questions about whether he understood that he was giving up his right to be presumed innocent, to present a defense, to call and confront witnesses and, if he so chose, to testify on his own behalf, Bashara said he understood and agreed to that. Morrow also pointed out that if Bashara was found guilty in a trial setting, he would have an automatic right to appeal.

During Bashara’s preliminary examination July 24 in 36th District Court, prosecutors introduced several recordings of conversations Bashara had with Steven Tibaudo, a Detroit furniture store owner Bashara offered to pay in exchange for finding someone to kill Gentz. Other store employees testified to the same.

Bashara said little during the pretrial conference, but did issue a brief statement.

“In June of 2012, I foolishly and regrettably offered to pay Steve Tibaudo to find someone to kill Joseph Gentz,” he told the court. Bashara added that this took place in Wayne County.

A couple of detectives from the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department were in the courtroom but weren’t called to testify.

Lindsey and Kriger both declined to comment after the hearing.

It was not known at press time whether Bashara would receive credit for time served. Since his arrest by Park police June 25, he has been held in the Wayne County Jail, having been unable to post a $15 million cash or surety bond. His attorney was unable to get a judge to reduce the bond.

Morrow scheduled 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20 as Bashara’s sentencing date.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.