Bashara case presses on
Detroit — Robert Bashara's two children spent all day on the witness stand Thursday describing a father who surfed pornographic websites with his family in the same room, cheated on their mother and faked crying in public after she was murdered.
The Bashara children were the only witnesses Thursday, the sixth day of testimony in the highly publicized murder-for-hire trial.
Bashara stared at daughter Jessica and son Robert when they were on the witness stand, but both avoided eye contact with their father.
Jessica Bashara discussed a variety of subjects, including the time she caught her father surfing a pornographic website. Robert recounted a jailhouse phone call he received where his dad claimed his innocence in his wife's killing.
Bashara is accused of hiring his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife, Jane. Prosecutors say Bashara wanted his wife killed so he could pursue a bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM) lifestyle with his girlfriend, Rachel Gillett, whom he met on the website alt.com.
Jessica Bashara, 22, said she was in the family's computer room with her father when she saw he was perusing alt.com.
"It upset me a lot, because I was in the same room when it happened," she said. "He told me he was on pornographic websites because he was experiencing erectile dysfunction, and he wanted to see if he was the problem, or my mother."
She also described an incident in which she saw a sexually explicit text from someone named Rose on her father's cellphone.
"I confronted my father because I was pretty disturbed by it," she said. "He started pressing buttons, handed me the phone and said, 'look, there's no message.' "
Jessica Bashara said she told her mother about the episode. "My dad tried to deny it to her, and she took my side," she said.
Jessica Bashara said her parents' relationship was rocky.
"(My dad) did see (my mother) as being very critical of him," she said. "I believe it was in respect to work ... his rental properties ... and also with not being discreet with pornography sites and texting another woman, and having his daughter find out."
She said she spoke with her mother about the marriage, and that Jane Bashara called herself "a fixer" who wanted to work things out.
But, she said, her mother was prepared for the possibility of the marriage ending.
"In the event of a divorce … she just hoped that she would be able to take her 401(k), make a clean break and get her name off all (Bashara's) rental properties," Jessica Bashara said. "She was scared her 401(k) would be taken because of debt on the rentals."
Jessica Bashara said she didn't find out her father was having an affair with Gillett until after the murder.
While she was in high school, a ring — a family heirloom that had belonged to an aunt — was missing.
"I thought maybe I had lost it," she said. "I did wear it sometimes for special occasions. After my mother's death, I found out that my father had given it to Rachel Gillett."
Bashara's son, Robert, 26, said his father dabbed at his eyes during a press conference shortly after the murder, but said there were no tears.
Bashara asked his son to put in a good word for him with Jane Bashara's family after he was arrested for trying to have Gentz killed in jail, a crime for which he later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
But, Robert Bashara Jr. said, he didn't honor the request. "I was really upset with him at the time," he said.
According to audio of a Wayne County Jail telephone call between father and son, Bashara tried to use his late wife's ashes as a bargaining chip with her family.
"I'll make sure they have the ashes, but I'd like them to be a little cooperative," he said. "This is very important to me."
During the phone call, Robert Bashara professed his innocence, telling his son: "I wouldn't do anything to hurt your mom."