Death threat laid to inmate

Police charge man, 20, with plotting to kill Balto. County judge

Linked to Feb. 7 sentencing

January 19, 2001|By Tim Craig and Dennis O'Brien | Tim Craig and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An inmate at the Baltimore County Detention Center was charged yesterday with offering another inmate $10,000 to kill Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz.

Christopher A. Denicolis, 20, was charged with solicitation to commit murder after detectives uncovered an alleged plan to have the inmate kill Levitz before Denicolis' sentencing Feb. 7.

Levitz is scheduled to sentence Denicolis for armed robbery in a home invasion. Levitz had given two co-defendants maximum 20-year sentences last fall.

"We considered it a legitimate threat," said Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst.

County police were told of the alleged threat Jan. 9 when Detective Jay Landsman Jr. served an arrest warrant on an inmate in an unrelated case.

The inmate, whose identity is being withheld by police, said Denicolis wanted the judge and possibly the prosecutor in the case killed, police said.

The inmate told Landsman that "there is a guy who asked me to do a murder when I get out, and this guy has money," according to charging documents.

The inmate told homicide detectives the next day that Denicolis had offered him $10,000 to kill Levitz and $5,000 to kill Assistant State's Attorney Mickey Norman, according to the charging documents. The detectives arranged for Denicolis and the inmate to meet Jan. 11 in the jail where they were overheard discussing the plan.

"Denicolis was overheard saying `I'll make sure you get 10 G's and I'll help you get to Canada and possibly I will help you get ... wherever you want to get from that point,'" according to charges filed by Detective Joseph A. Caskey.

Denicolis said he would pay for the killing "after he read Levitz's name in the obituaries," according to the charging documents.

The suspect predicted the newspaper headlines would read "Levitz loses life," the charging documents said.

Police declined to charge Denicolis with soliciting to have Norman killed because he did not repeat the threat during the Jan. 11 meeting.

"I ain't really pressed about him," Denicolis is quoted by police as telling the inmate Jan 11.

Cpl. Vickie Warehime, a county police spokeswoman, and Brobst declined to comment as to how the judge was to be killed or whether the conversation was tape-recorded.

"He showed the intent by not only offering money, but offering passage to Canada and offering assistance if he needed in anything in Canada," Warehime said.

Denicolis could receive a sentence of life in prison if convicted, Brobst said.

Levitz declined to discuss the case yesterday. Police have offered him extra security, but he would not say what measures he has taken to protect himself.

He is scheduled to sentence Denicolis on Feb. 7 for a home invasion May 18 in Phoenix and for two convenience store robberies.

Before he was named to the Circuit Court bench in 1985, Levitz was known as an aggressive and talented prosecutor with an ability to sway a jury.

As a judge, he presided over the 1998 trial in the killing of Rita Fisher, a 9-year-old girl who died after being beaten and denied food and water. Levitz gave the three defendants - Rita's mother, sister and sister's boyfriend - long sentences.

Last fall, Levitz sentenced each of Denicolis' co-defendants, Ronald Joseph Horvitz Jr., 19, and Richard Peter Jaffray III, 20, to maximum 20-year terms in the home invasion.

Richard Shapiro, Denicolis' lawyer, is expected to ask Levitz to recuse himself from sentencing his client because of the alleged death threat.

Shapiro was unavailable for comment late yesterday.

Norman said he was planning to ask for the 20-year maximum term for Denicolis.

"This kid is dangerous," Norman said.

The night of the robbery in Phoenix, Denicolis and the two co-defendants entered the home of Mark and Renee Greene in the 14000 block of Old York Road about 4 a.m., Norman said.

Denicolis killed the family dog, a Shih Tzu, with a baseball bat, Norman said.

When the Greenes awoke, they were forced to sit in separate areas of the living room while Denicolis pulled a telephone cord from his pocket to tie up Mark Greene, Norman said.

Renee Greene, unaware that her dog had been killed, ran into the kitchen to check on the dog and managed to flee to a neighbor's home, where she called police, Norman said.

Denicolis initially requested a jury trial, but decided to plead guilty Nov. 14 after learning that Horvitz and Jaffray were ready to testify against him, Norman said.

Court records show that Denicolis pleaded guilty to three robbery counts before Levitz, admitting to the home invasion robbery as well as the robberies of two Baltimore County convenience stores Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 of last year.

Levitz is not the first judge in the Baltimore area to be the target of a death threat.

Three men were indicted in April, and a fourth in December, on charges of plotting to kill U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg. Legg was to have presided over the defendants' trial on charges of running a Northwest Baltimore drug ring linked to two killings.

An Armistead Gardens man, who was later ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial, was arrested in 1992 and charged with soliciting a man to kill then then-Baltimore County Circuit Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr.

Murphy is now chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Sun researcher Sandy Levy contributed to this article.

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