Page testifies talk of hit was 'playing the game'

June 10, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A former Marine testified yesterday that he was only playin along with "the game" when he talked to an undercover investigator about killing two potential witnesses as he awaited trial on rape charges.

James Alexander Page Jr. told a Howard Circuit Court jury that a fellow inmate approached him in the county Detention Center about having the witnesses slain.

"I didn't take it seriously," Page told the jury of seven women and five men. "I just played along with the system. . . I was playing the game."

Page, 27, of Greenbelt, took the witness stand in his own defense against two counts each of solicitation to commit murder and obstruction of justice.

Page, whose Marine enlistment expired while he awaited trial, is accused of offering $3,000 to an undercover state police trooper posing as a hit man. The targets were a Columbia girl who accused Page of rape and her boyfriend, both of whom planned to testify at his trial.

In other testimony, an informant described himself as a law-abiding citizen who helped police investigate Page.

Mark Alexander Tyson of Columbia told the jury he agreed to serve as a police contact for reduced bond for his own criminal charges, including assault with intent to murder.

Louis Willemin, an assistant public defender representing Page, asked Tyson if he agreed to help the police investigate knowing that his charges might be dropped.

"I did no more than what any other law-abiding citizen would have done," Tyson said. "Like any other citizen in the county, if there's a crime in my neighborhood, I report it."

Mr. Willemin pressed Tyson about his involvement as a police informant and about what he received in exchange for his help in the Page case.

"Isn't it true you asked for help in return for your cooperation?" Mr. Willemin asked.

"I didn't necessarily have to ask," Tyson answered. "It's not like it was a transaction, like you do this for me and I'll do this for you. It was mutually understood. There wasn't a lot of conversation about it."

Mr. Willemin then went down a list of five of Tyson's criminal cases -- involving battery, breaking and entering, a handgun violation and drug counts -- that have been put on the court's inactive docket.

The attorney asked Tyson what he did for the police to get his cases put on the inactive docket, but Tyson said he didn't remember. He later said he confirmed some information for investigators. Tyson then advised Mr. Willemin to talk to his attorney.

Tyson later acknowledged that he had a written agreement with investigators and prosecutors to get reduced bond for two criminal cases, one for malicious destruction and another for assault with intent to murder.

In the assault case, Tyson was at first being held without bond, but he was later released on a $50,000 unsecured bond, records say. The bond means he did not have to pay money to get out of jail but would have to pay if he doesn't show up in court.

Tyson, 31, stands trial on June 11 for assault with intent to murder for a Dec. 1 stabbing in Columbia.

"I really don't say I was working for the police," Tyson said. "I'm just a law-abiding citizen. I expect my cases to be [dropped] because I'm not guilty. I didn't do none of that."

Tyson, sporting a shaved head, sunglasses and a gray sport coat, told the jury Page approached him while they were awaiting trial at the county Detention Center.

"He came to me and told me he wanted them killed," Tyson said. "I got the impression that he was desperate at the time."

Tyson, who had been convicted of breaking and entering in Baltimore, said he told Page that he would put him in touch with someone. Instead, he said, he went to county police investigators.

The investigators gave him the telephone number of the undercover trooper to pass on to Page, Tyson said. He later placed three calls to the trooper, and then handed the phone to Page.

The informant testified that Page wrote out a "contract" for the killings that included the names of the targets and the amount of money to be paid after their deaths.

Tyson said the contract was confiscated by the police after he showed it to investigators.

But Mr. Willemin pressed Tyson over the contract.

"Did you persuade Mr. Page to write the contract after you first met with the police?" Mr. Willemin asked. " 'No' means 'no' in every language," Tyson countered.

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