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September 17, 2012

Judge rejects bond reduction request for Bashara

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

Robert Bashara will have to get used to life behind bars, at least until his trial later this fall.

On Sept. 17, 3rd Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow denied a request by defense attorney Mark Kriger to reduce Bashara’s bond from $15 million. The judge’s decision was based on a review of case records and briefs from the attorneys. Kriger could not be reached before press time for comment on the bond modification denial.

Kriger and Wayne County prosecuting attorneys Lisa Lindsey and Robert Moran were in court before Morrow Sept. 13 offering their arguments for and against the motion, respectively. Prosecutors argued that Bashara is a danger to the community, and they alleged that he has engaged in “a pattern of witness tampering, manipulation, intimidation and retaliation” even from jail. Kriger countered that Bashara has a long history of community service and he would abide by the court’s decisions if he were free on bail.

Bashara, 54, of Grosse Pointe Park, is being held in the Wayne County Jail on a solicitation to commit murder charge. He’s accused of hiring someone to kill Joseph Gentz, 48, of Grosse Pointe Park, who is currently in a different jail on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of Jane Bashara, Robert Bashara’s wife. Gentz, a handyman who worked for Robert Bashara, reportedly told law enforcement officials that he strangled Jane Bashara on Jan. 24 at her husband’s behest.

Some reports have indicated that Gentz said Robert Bashara forced him to commit the murder at gunpoint, while others suggest Bashara offered him a couple thousand dollars and possibly an older model car as payment for the crime. In past interviews, Bashara’s former attorney, David Griem, and Bashara himself both denied these reports and said Bashara had nothing to do with his wife’s death. At press time, Bashara had been named of person of interest by police in his wife’s murder, but hadn’t been charged in connection with it.

Prosecutors — who originally asked for a $25 million bond — pointed to the serious nature of the crime with which Bashara is charged, along with what they say is a high likelihood of conviction, when they argued for the unusually high bond. In their motion, the prosecutors said Bashara is now unemployed and is “no longer active in (Grosse Pointe) Rotary due to the fact that a majority of the members no longer wished to include him in the organization.”

Lindsey said Bashara no longer has community support or people in the area who could monitor his behavior. She alleged that in a phone conversation from jail, a Bashara friend she referred to as “Mike” told Bashara that he had previously told Bashara repeatedly he should stay out of trouble and that Bashara ignored this advice.

Even support from his family has waned, prosecutors argued. In a jailhouse phone call, Lindsey said Bashara’s mother, Nancy Bashara, told him, “I’m through,” after reading prosecution discovery materials and listening to tapes of conversations Bashara had with a furniture store owner he allegedly hired to arrange for Gentz’s murder. The store owner, Steve Tibaudo, told Bashara at one point that he could have Gentz killed by feeding him ground-up glass.

As part of their motion, prosecutors also alleged that Bashara used a social worker’s phone to make an unauthorized call in which he threatened to cut his daughter out of his will if she didn’t support him.

Kriger told Morrow the comments prosecutors were referring to were misleading.

“You can distort the real relationship between Bob Bashara and his family” by just using “a snippet from one conversation,” Kriger said.

Kriger said Bashara “worked tirelessly for his church” and raised more than $3 million for a homeless shelter, among other community activities. He acknowledged that his client “is strapped financially,” with Monroe Bank and Trust foreclosing on one of the businessman’s properties, but he said Bashara would live in his Grosse Pointe Park home and not put it on the market, if he were to be released.

“Certainly this offense is serious, but the Legislature and our (state) constitution say this is a bailable offense,” Kriger said.

Prosecutors maintain that Bashara should remain incarcerated while awaiting his trial, slated, at press time, to begin Nov. 12 in front of Morrow.

“The charge of solicitation to murder is a serious crime,” said Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Maria Miller in an email on behalf of her office. “A review of the alleged conduct of Bashara before and during his incarceration shows a portrait of a very dangerous individual who should not have any modification or reduction in bond.”

After the Sept. 13 hearing, Kriger declined to answer questions from reporters.

“I don’t comment on pending cases,” he told members of the media, citing a policy he said he has always adhered to.
 

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