Bashara’s handyman says affidavit was signed in spite

George Hunter
The Detroit News
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Handyman Joseph Gentz testified Tuesday he never read an affidavit bearing his signature, which claims his boss, Bob Bashara, had nothing to do with the murder of his wife, Jane.

Joseph Gentz gives testimony during a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Vonda Evans on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.

Instead, Gentz said he signed the document because he was angry at Wayne County Prosecutors and Grosse Pointe Park Police.

“I didn’t have nothing to do with this affidavit. This is all BS. All I did was sign it,” he said during the continuation of Bashara’s hearing for a new trial.

The hearing, which is in its eighth month, is expected to wrap up July 14, when Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans will allow Bashara’s attorney and prosecutors 45 minutes each to make final arguments. Then, she said, she’ll rule whether to grant the former Grosse Pointe Park businessman a new trial.

Bashara was convicted last year of orchestrating the murder of his wife. After his conviction of first-degree murder, his appellate attorney, Ronald Ambrose, filed a motion for a new trial, claiming his client’s trial lawyers didn’t do enough to highlight his philanthropy, and allowed the media to paint a negative picture of him to jurors.

Gentz, who pleaded guilty to strangling Jane Bashara in her garage Jan. 24, 2012, signed an affidavit, filed with the court in December, claiming Bashara was not involved in the killing. The developmentally delayed handyman said in the affidavit he killed the woman because he was angry that Bashara hadn’t paid him for odd jobs he’d performed.

But when Gentz took the witness stand last month, he recanted the affidavit, and insisted Bashara had forced him at gunpoint to commit the killing.

On Tuesday, Gentz reiterated his claim that the affidavit was false.

The judge asked him: “You’re mad at the prosecutor and the police, and you’re going to sign a document that you didn’t even read?”

Gentz replied: “I figured it would get me back into the court system ... I’m not that bright. I’m not the brightest kid in the room.”

While discussing the night of the murder, Gentz said four people were present in the couple’s garage: “There was me, Bob, Jane — and God.”

Gentz said prosecutors insisted while questioning him shortly after the killing they weren’t interested in charging him. “They said, ‘we don’t want you; we want Bob.’ They said ‘Don’t worry. We got your back.’ I was lied to ... they threw me underneath the bus. They used me to get what they wanted.”

The handyman also claimed prosecutors told him they’d protect him in prison.

“My safety is not safe,” he said. “Everybody says ‘you’re a rat; you’re going to get it.’ It’s prison; that’s what they do.”

Gentz said he has been attacked while housed in the Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven.

Robert Bashara listens to testimony on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.

Days after Jane Bashara was strangled in her garage, Gentz walked into the Grosse Pointe Park police station and told detectives Bashara had forced him at gunpoint to commit the crime. In a plea agreement, Gentz later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 17-28 years in prison.

After Gentz was arrested for admitting to killing Jane Bashara, Bob Bashara tried to hire a furniture store owner to kill the handyman in jail.

The store owner cooperated with authorities and wore a wire, which recorded Bashara setting up the hit. 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.

As part of Gentz’s plea deal, he agreed to testify against Bashara, although at the last moment, he decided not to testify at the trial, which 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.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Ambrose questioned why prosecutors didn’t hold Gentz to his promise to testify.

“It’s a mystery to me why he wasn’t more or less forced to testify. He had an agreement. I’m speculating, but if the prosecutors had put Mr. Gentz on the stand, my client (would’ve been found not guilty).”

Ambrose added Gentz’s testimony Tuesday was difficult to follow. “It’s hard to get a grasp on when he’s telling the truth. It’s like Jell-O; you just can’t grab onto it.”

Ambrose also admitted his client should not have talked to the media after his wife was killed. Bashara told reporters he’d never had an affair, although it was later proven he had been cheating on his wife.

“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but his (previous attorneys) could’ve done a little better advising him to keep quiet. He did himself a disservice by speaking with the media. He lied about his relationship with his wife and his relationship with others.”

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