Man convicted of offering $3,000 to get potential witness in rape trial killed

June 11, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A former Marine described by a prosecutor as a "deathmaker" was convicted yesterday of offering an undercover investigator $3,000 to kill a potential witness while awaiting trial on rape charges.

James Alexander Page Jr. was convicted of one count of solicitation to commit murder and one count of obstruction of justice by a Howard Circuit Court jury that deliberated eight hours yesterday.

Page, 27, of Greenbelt, was accused of trying to get a state police trooper, posing as a hit man, to kill a Columbia girl, who had accused him of rape, and her boyfriend to prevent them from testifying against him. He was acquitted of the solicitation charge involving the boyfriend.

Page, whose enlistment expired while he was awaiting trial, could be sentenced to life in prison. Judge Raymond Kane Jr., who could also impose a lesser penalty, set sentencing for Oct. 12.

"He's not a good Marine. He's not a good person," Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha told the jury of seven women and five men in his closing statement.

"He is the deathmaker," said Mr. Murtha, referring to a note police found in Page's cell at the county Detention Center after his arrest.

Page testified Wednesday that he was only playing along when a fellow inmate approached him about talking to a hit man about having the witnesses killed.

However, the inmate, Mark Alexander Tyson of Columbia, testified that he went to police after Page approached him about finding a hit man to kill the witnesses.

Tyson said he was given reduced bail for three pending criminal cases, one involving assault with intent to murder, in exchange for helping police investigate Page.

Assistant Public Defender Louis Willemin argued that Tyson trapped Page into going along with the solicitations to get help in his own criminal cases.

The defense attorney pointed out that each time the investigation was about to fizzle, Tyson prompted Page to call the trooper. He noted that Page had no contact with the undercover investigator during the month that Tyson was out of jail.

"Mark Tyson was falling all over himself to cooperate with the police," Mr. Willemin said. "Why? Because he was working his way out of his charges."

He asserted that Tyson played on Page's weaknesses to get him so engrossed in the idea of hiring a hit man that Page couldn't turn away.

"[Page] was weak," Mr. Willemin said. "He was unable to resist . . .Tyson's suggestions. By that point, he was in."

But Mr. Murtha asked the jurors to dismiss Mr. Willemin's assertions about Tyson. The prosecutor noted that if wasn't for Tyson, Page might have found a real hit man to carry out his wishes to kill the witnesses.

The prosecutor advised the jury to listen to the taped telephone conversations and read the letters between Page and the

undercover trooper to find Page's intentions.

In the tapes and letters, Page suggests ways to kill the witnesses, explains how he will pay for the slayings and advises the undercover trooper to write his letters in "code" to avoid detection by prison officials, Mr. Murtha noted.

He asserted that Page's actions were out of desperation -- he faced the prospect of spending his life in jail, his Marine enlistment had expired, and he had no money.

"James Alexander Page was at a point of desperation in his life," Mr. Murtha said. "His life unfolds. It falls apart. . . . He's in jail and he wants out."

Page, who faced 31 charges -- including several first-degree rape counts -- was found guilty of committing 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 in March.

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