Trial opens in alleged plot to hire hit man to kill judge

Defense lawyer derides credibility of accuser

October 04, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County prosecutor told a jury yesterday that 21- year-old Christopher A. Denicolis was so worried he would get a long prison sentence from Judge Dana M. Levitz for three armed robberies that he hired his cellmate to kill the judge for $10,000.

Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst said that Denicolis, of Kingsville, told convicted murderer Kenneth Moroz that he would get his money after Denicolis read in the newspaper "Levitz loses life."

Brobst spoke in her opening statement yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, where Denicolis is on trial for solicitation to commit murder. She told jurors they would hear from Moroz today and would be able to listen to a surreptitious tape recording Moroz made for county police of Denicolis plotting the murder in the county detention center in Towson.

But Denicolis' lawyer, Mark Van Bavel, told the jury that the conversations were merely "a bunch of guys in jail shooting the breeze."

He said evidence will show Moroz, who he called a "career drug user, career thief, convicted murderer and snitch," set up Denicolis as a way to get himself a lighter sentence for misuse of credit cards.

Van Bavel also said no weapons or money were involved.

"Neither of them knew where Judge Levitz lived, neither had a dime ... and neither had access to freedom," said Van Bavel.

Levitz, a Baltimore County circuit judge, briefly took the witness stand yesterday, testifying that before the alleged plot was conceived he had sentenced two co-defendants to 20 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to committing the armed robberies with Denicolis.

Judge Robert H. Heller Jr., an Anne Arundel County circuit judge specially assigned to hear the murder solicitation case, refused to allow Levitz to repeat comments he made to the co-defendants -- Richard P. Jaffrey III and Ronald J. Horvitz -- during their sentencings in September 2000.

Denicolis was scheduled to be sentenced in February.

Brobst told Heller that Levitz' harsh comments to the co-defendants were the motive for Denicolis to hire a hit man to kill Levitz so another judge would sentence him.

Levitz told the jury he was "given some shocking information" in December or January of this year, but after Van Bavel objected, Heller cut off the judge's testimony and refused to allow him to describe his reaction to news that he was the intended victim of a murder plot.

Levitz recused himself from sentencing Denicolis -- who had pleaded guilty earlier -- because of the alleged plot.

County police detectives discovered the alleged plot in December when a detective served a warrant on Moroz for credit-card fraud.

Cpl. Jay Landsman Jr., a detective in the county's burglary unit, told the jury he was driving Moroz to the county public safety building from the jail when Moroz told him, "There was a guy who asked him to do a murder when he got out and he had money."

Denicolis initially wanted to have the prosecutor in his robbery case, Mickey J. Norman, killed for $5,000 but later dropped the plan, Brobst said.

Denicolis was sentenced to 20 years in prison in February by Judge J. William Hinkel after pleading guilty to three Baltimore County robberies last year. In one case, a home invasion in Monkton, he attacked the homeowner with an aluminum baseball bat and killed the family's dog before the wife escaped and called police.

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