Gentz changes course again, opts to 'tell all'

George Hunter
The Detroit News

The handyman who confessed to killing Jane Bashara at her husband’s behest changed his mind again Tuesday about whether to testify about the murder.

His appearance in court capped a morning of anticipation about what Gentz would say under oath after changing his story in prison to say he acted alone. He was to testify in Bob Bashara’s effort in Wayne Circuit Court to get a new trial after he was convicted last year of orchestrating his wife’s Jan. 24, 2012, murder.

But after Gentz was brought into the courtroom after a short delay, he said he didn’t want to talk about the murder; instead, he said he would only discuss how he’d allegedly been mistreated by Wayne County prosecutors and Grosse Pointe Park police.

Judge Vonda Evans said he couldn’t pick and choose what to talk about on the stand.

“You can’t take the Fifth (Amendment) on some things,” she said. “You can’t choose to testify about some things and not others.”

Bob Bashara looked anxious with Gentz on the stand, shifting in his seat and leaning forward.

Evans called for a lunch break to let Gentz think about what he wanted to do.

She reminded him that he risks having his original first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and perjury charges reinstated if he decided to take the stand.

After the break, she asked his decision, and he said: “Tell all.”

It’s not the first time he said he would do that, only to change his mind.

Gentz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the January 2012 death of marketing executive Jane Bashara. As part of his plea deal, Gentz agreed to testify against her Grosse Pointe Park businessman husband.

However, on the eve of Bashara’s trial last year Gentz said he’d changed his mind about testifying. Bashara’s trial went ahead, and he was convicted of orchestrating his wife’s murder.

Then, in January, Gentz filed an affidavit from prison saying he had acted alone, and that Bob Bashara had nothing to do with the slaying. He was scheduled to testify about his affidavit Tuesday.

He didn’t get the chance as Evans called for a recess until April 21, to allow Gentz’s lawyer, John Holler, to watch Gentz’s videotaped testimony in an investigative subpoena. Gentz’s previous attorneys had seen the interview, but Holler hadn’t.

Before Evans announced the delay, Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey told the judge that Holler tried to get Gentz’s sentence reduced to six years — from the 17-to-28 years he’s serving — in exchange for him not testifying that Bashara didn’t pay him to kill his wife.

“That was never on the table,” Lindsey said. “We turned him down flat.”

Bashara was granted the hearing on whether to be granted a new trial after his appellate attorney, Ronald Ambrose, filed a motion in September claiming prosecutors and the media portrayed Bashara as a monster.

Bashara also said his attorneys, Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy, erred by not trying hard enough to get the trial moved to another venue, and by failing to emphasize his charitable ventures with the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club and other organizations.

Gentz originally said Bashara paid him to kill his wife. He told police he strangled the woman while her husband watched. He later claimed Bashara forced him to commit the killing.

But in a 12-page affidavit filed in January, Gentz said Bashara had no role in Jane Bashara’s death.

Gentz said in the document he was mad at Bashara because the businessman hadn’t paid him for odd jobs he’d done at Bashara’s rental properties. So, Gentz said, he broke into Bashara’s garage to take something of equal value to the work he’d done.

He said he panicked when Jane Bashara interrupted him. He strangled her, hit her over the head and “squeezed her neck until she no longer moved.”

Bashara pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder and was sentenced to up to 20 years. He was serving that sentence when his murder trial began.

His often raucous trial lasted two months and featured 74 witnesses and 460 exhibits. Prosecutors said Bashara wanted his wife dead so he could immerse himself in a bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic lifestyle with his longtime mistress, Rachel Gillett.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN