DetroitOctober 16, 2012
Gentz to stand trial in January for murder of Jane Bashara
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
A plea deal isn’t out of the question, but it also doesn’t appear to be imminent for Joseph Gentz, the 48-year-old Grosse Pointe Park handyman charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the Jan. 24 strangulation of Jane Bashara.
During an arraignment on information Oct. 16 in front of 3rd Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans, Gentz’s court-appointed attorney, Susan Reed, said her client was standing mute, so the judge entered a plea of not guilty on Gentz’s behalf. Gentz, who was ushered into court in a red jailhouse uniform, is currently being held in the William Dickerson facility in Hamtramck, where Reed said he remains in isolation for his own safety.
Gentz has said he committed the murder at the behest of Robert Bashara, 54, of Grosse Pointe Park, Jane Bashara’s husband. Although he insists he had nothing to do with his wife’s slaying, Robert Bashara pleaded guilty Oct. 11 to a charge of solicitation to commit murder for hiring someone to have Gentz killed in jail.
Outside the courtroom, Reed said no plea negotiations were taking place at press time, but “there’s always the possibility of a deal.”
As to Robert Bashara’s recent admission of guilt in trying to have Gentz killed, Reed emphasized that Bashara “did not get a deal. He pled as charged.”
Bashara is facing a possible sentence of roughly 4-11 years in prison. Solicitation of murder can carry a life sentence, but she said Bashara’s lack of a prior criminal history and other factors led to what might seem like a light possible sentence. Bashara is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 20.
Reed said Bashara’s attorney, Mark Kriger, steered his client in the right direction, based on evidence collected by prosecutors. That evidence included recordings of Bashara offering money to another man to hire someone to kill Gentz.
“Based on what the prosecution (had), going to trial would have probably ended in a longer sentence (for Bashara),” she said.
Her client feared all along that Bashara would try to have him killed, she said.
Declining to speculate on whether murder charges might be forthcoming against Robert Bashara or another suspect, Reed said it would be up to the prosecutors to file such charges.
In preparation for upcoming court dates in the case, Reed said she’s going over materials including phone records and text messages. She said she has about three 5-inch binders full of documents for just this case.
Evans set Nov. 27 as the deadline for both sides to submit information in the case. A final conference and motion hearings were set, at press time, for 9 a.m. Dec. 4. A jury trial is slated to begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 7, 2013.
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