Defendant claims he was enticed Ex-Marine on trial in hit-man case

June 08, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A former Marine -- desperate to beat rape charges -- offered a police officer posing as a hit man $3,000 to murder two potential witnesses, prosecutors say.

But the man's lawyer argues that his client was "enticed" by a police informant interested in relaxing his own pending criminal charges.

Those were the two arguments heard by a Howard Circuit Court jury yesterday in the trial of James Alexander Page Jr., a 27-year-old Greenbelt man charged with two counts each of solicitation to commit murder and obstruction of justice.

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha told the jury in his opening statement to listen to five telephone conversations recorded by the undercover investigator.

"What will unfold before you is a desperate man's attempts . . . to escape the charges against him," Mr. Murtha told the jury of seven women and five men. "He's a desperate man. And desperate men do strange things."

Page first wanted the hit man to kill the boyfriend of a Columbia girl accusing him of rape to scare her and prevent her from testifying against him, Mr. Murtha said. The defendant wanted the boyfriend tied to a car and then drowned in a river.

Later, Page also wanted the girl murdered. He suggested to the hit man that her death be made to look like a soured drug deal, the prosecutor said.

Mr. Murtha told the jury that Page was in the county Detention Center awaiting trial when he approached another inmate about finding someone to kill the teen-age girl and boy in late October.

The inmate went to police and agreed to serve as an "operator" to put Page in touch with an undercover investigator who would pose as a hit man, Mr. Murtha said.

But Assistant Public Defender Louis Willemin told the jury that the inmate is skilled at working the criminal justice system to his benefit through years of working as a police informant.

Mr. Willemin asserted that the informant persuaded Page to seek a hit man and then went to police with the information in the hope of getting help on his pending cases.

The informant has two pending Circuit Court cases, one for theft and another for assault with intent to murder, records say. He has been released on his own recognizance pending trial.

"He enticed James Page to get involved in something that Mr. Page would not get involved in on his own volition," Mr. Willemin said. "Mr. Page was persuaded by him . . . to commit these acts."

Trooper George Forsythe, an undercover investigator for the state police, testified that he began posing as a hit man named "Mike Saints" to investigate Page in late October.

County detectives provided their informant with a special telephone number used only in covert investigations to reach the undercover trooper, the investigator said.

Trooper Forsythe testified that he talked to Page five times between Nov. 2 and Dec. 17. The informant called the trooper and then handed the telephone to Page during the first three conversations, the investigator said. The remaining calls were made by Page.

Trooper Forsythe is to continue his testimony when the trial resumes today.

Page was found guilty of only one charge -- from an indictment containing 31 charges, including several first-degree rape counts following a trial in March.

Page was convicted of perverted sexual practices for engaging in a sex act with the girl in a car parked at a Columbia industrial park. He was given a suspended prison sentence.

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