Bashara attorney didn’t want to besmirch victim

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Bob Bashara’s former attorney said Tuesday he tried to defend his client during the Grosse Pointe Park man’s murder trial last year while trying to avoid revealing intimate details that would’ve embarrassed the family of his wife and victim.

Bashara, 57, is seeking a new trial. He said in a motion filed with Wayne Circuit Court that his attorneys, Michael McCarthy and Lillian Diallo, were ineffective, in part because they didn’t reveal to jurors that Bashara and his wife each had difficulty having sex, due to physical problems: Erectile dysfunction for Bob Bashara, and a medical condition that made sex painful for Jane Bashara.

After Bashara waived his attorney-client privilege during a motion hearing Tuesday, McCarthy took the witness stand and defended his decision to keep information about Jane Bashara’s physical problems out of the trial.

“We’d already had enough of this seedy, low, disgusting information regarding this lifestyle,” McCarthy said.

Testimony in the hearing is expected to continue Wednesday with defense investigator Joseph Bruce, re-taking the witness stand. Bruce had started testifying, but Diallo replaced him on the stand because she has an upcoming murder trial.

“I did what I was supposed to do as an attorney. … I didn’t sit there and twiddle my thumbs,” she said.

Bashara’s appellate attorney, Ronald Ambrose, also said Bashara’s former lawyers failed to call key witnesses, six of whom are scheduled to testify next month. Ambrose must present a witness list to Judge Vonda Evans by Oct. 2, with testimony scheduled for Oct. 14. Evans presided over Bashara’s murder trial.

Ambrose said after the hearing that while he wants Bashara to testify he hopes he doesn’t take the stand Wednesday because Bashara is not prepared.

“He has to know the ground rules,” Ambrose said. “He’s not testified before.”

Bob Bashara is represented by defense attorney Ronald Ambrose, who said Bashara’s former lawyers failed to call key witnesses in his trial.

Ambrose said he “absolutely” wants Bashara to testify but hopes he does so in October, when the trial resumes.

With McCarthy on the stand, Ambrose asked why he didn’t tell jurors the Basharas had an arrangement to allow him to have extramarital affairs as long as he didn’t embarrass her or the family.

McCarthy said he did discuss that arrangement, but that he purposely avoided telling jurors about Jane Bashara’s physical issues. He and Diallo called a family friend, Lois Valente, who testified Bashara asked his wife to attend a “key party” in which wife-swapping would occur. Valente also discussed the alleged arrangement the couple had.

“I believe we much more effectively got out the arrangement, and we didn’t have to go down the low road by revealing things about Mrs. Bashara that were irrelevant,” McCarthy said. “We accomplished the same goal ... without embarrassing her.”

Ambrose asked both attorneys why they didn’t call for a mistrial after prosecutors late in the trial introduced plant matter found on the victim’s sock that didn’t match leaves found in the Bashara garage where she was killed. McCarthy and Diallo said that actually helped Bashara.

McCarthy said he didn’t call Grosse Pointe Park Police Chief David Hiller to the stand during the trial, because he was afraid the chief would discuss an allegation that Bashara molested an underage family member in the 1990s.

During a break in the hearing, Jane Bashara’s mother Lorraine Engelbrecht, said being back in court is taking its toll.

“Some people deserve a new trial, but not this monster,” she said. “I can’t believe this monster is putting my family through all this again. This case just goes on, and on, and on.”

“If he gets another trial I’m going to scream.”

Bashara is serving a life sentence in the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee after his first-degree murder conviction in December. Bashara vowed to appeal his case “until my hands are raw, blood comes from my eyes and I take my last breath.” He filed his appeal in March.

Ambrose also said Bashara’s attorneys should have tried to change the venue in the high-profile case, but McCarthy said it wouldn’t have mattered.

“(The case) got nationwide publicity all along,” he said. “So it didn’t matter where it went.”

After a nine-week trial that featured salacious testimony, 74 witnesses and 460 exhibits, Bashara was found guilty of orchestrating the Jan. 24, 2012, killing of his wife, Jane.

He paid his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to strangle her in the garage of their home, dump her body in her SUV and leave it in an east side Detroit alley. Gentz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving 17-28 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Bashara killed his wife so he could immerse himself in a bondage, discipline and sadomasochism lifestyle with his girlfriend, Rachel Gillett.

Before his conviction, Bashara worked hard to cultivate his image as a family man and philanthropist. The man who fancied himself “the Mayor of Middlesex (Street)” and tooled around the Pointes in a Lincoln Navigator sporting a vanity plate with “BIG BOBB” was president of the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club, and was often seen with his wife, a former marketing executive for DTE Energy, at charity fundraisers.

Meanwhile, testimony showed he had a steady girlfriend, sought relationships with other women, ran a sex dungeon beneath a bar he owned and snorted cocaine.

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