Bashara collapses; trial suspended
Detroit — Murder defendant Robert Bashara collapsed as he prepared for court Wednesday morning, suffering from what his attorneys said were "significant health issues," which has suspended the case until at least next week.
Bashara, who is accused of hiring his handyman Joseph Gentz to kill his wife, Jane, doubled over in pain while registering for court in the Dickerson Facility, where he's housed in a segregated unit, according to his attorneys Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy.
Wednesday afternoon, Diallo said she visited her client in jail and he was in pain.
"Earlier in court, I looked over and he seemed to be having an issue with his right side," she said. "That's what's wrong — it's something with his right side, but I can't disclose more than that.
"He wanted to come to court and was apologizing, but these things happen."
When asked if she felt her client would be well enough to attend court Monday, Diallo said, "It's day-to-day. We'll have to wait and see."
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran told Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans that Bashara was given a cortisone shot for his condition, and was being evaluated by jail medical staff.
Evans suspended testimony until at least Monday morning. She said she was concerned Bashara's medical issues could cause the trial to be put on hold even longer.
Prosecutors warn the delay could extend the trial into the first week of December as they have only called about a third of their witness list. There have been 29 witnesses since testimony began Oct. 14.
Steve Tibaudo, a furniture store owner who secretly wore a wire that recorded Bashara trying to hire him to have Gentz killed in jail, was to testify Wednesday. He took the stand Monday, but his testimony was put on hold so prosecutors and Bashara's defense team could figure out which audio files to play in court.
Also scheduled to testify Wednesday was Steve Miles, Bashara's0 boss from United Laboratories Inc., a chemical company that employed him. Miles was brought in from another state, so the defense agreed to stipulate to his testimony to allow him to return home.
Previous testimony and statements made during court proceedings have revealed Bashara suffers from several medical issues, including diabetes, which has caused macular degeneration, sleep apnea, erectile dysfunction and a skin condition.
On the first day of Bashara's trial, when Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans asked how he was doing, he replied: "I was in the hospital last night, but I'm hanging in there. God willing." He did not disclose what condition caused him to be hospitalized, and his attorneys Wednesday said they didn't know.
McCarthy said there was no recent indication his client was suffering.
"(Tuesday) afternoon when we parted ways, he seemed to be fine," McCarthy said. "He was upbeat and happy. He's an optimistic person; he's always got a smile."
McCarthy added Bashara won't be allowed to attend the trial if he's medicated.
Diallo said stress "could have played a role" in Bashara's collapse.
"It's been stressful for everybody involved," she said.
Last week was particularly stressful, McCarthy said, because his children, Jessica and Robert Jr., testified.
"It's got to be very emotional to see your children like that," he said. "They haven't had much interaction with him lately. It was pretty evident ... he expressed some emotion. He was wiping his eyes.
Gentz pleaded guilty to strangling Jane Bashara in her garage Jan. 24, 2012, and moving her body to a Detroit alley; while Bashara pleaded guilty to trying to have Gentz killed in jail. If convicted of the current charges that include first-degree murder, Bashara could spend his life in prison.