Judge denies Bashara’s bid for new trial

George Hunter
The Detroit News

After a hearing that lasted 10 months, a judge ruled Friday Bob Bashara will not get a new trial.

Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans said Bashara’s attorney did not convince her the former Grosse Pointe Park businessman didn’t get a fair trial last year, when he was convicted of orchestrating the Jan. 24, 2012, murder of his wife, Jane Bashara.

“There has not been a miscarriage of justice,” Evans said. “All your motions are denied.”

Bashara has 42 days to appeal Evans’ decision. His attorney said after Friday’s hearing paperwork has already been filed with the state Court of Appeals.

The crux of Bashara’s argument for a new trial was that his attorneys were ineffective. But Evans said Friday there was no proof of that.

“The trial attorneys in my opinion did a great job,” Evans said, adding Bashara never complained about his lawyers until after he was found guilty of solicitation of murder, which carries a life sentence.

“The defendant has the burden to establish deficient performance and prejudice,” said Evans, who presided over Bashara’s two-month trial. “It is this court’s belief that it was Mr. Bashara’s desire ... to rewrite his ending.”

Evans said Bashara was afforded a “dream team” of attorneys, adding: “The defendant has been afforded privileges” she hasn’t seen in her entire career.

“You could never separate the truth from your lies,” Evans told Bashara, as he rocked in his chair and scowled at her.

“You planned, and masterminded this plan to kill your wife and dump her body in Detroit like garbage. You would finally be able to be free to live your new life in this seedy, manipulative lifestyle you dreamed of with Jane’s money.”

Before the trial, Bashara’s affairs and penchant for kinky sex with his mistresses were exposed by the media. Evans said Friday Jane Bashara was “the proverbial lamb, led to slaughter” so that Bashara could live a full-time bondage, discipline and sadomasochistic lifestyle and inherit her sizable 401(k) and savings.

After Friday’s hearing, Bashara’s appellate attorney Ronald Ambrose said: “This whole lifestyle thing got blown out of proportion.”

He added: “There is absolutely, 100 percent no evidence of Bob Bashara’s involvement (in the murder) other than (Gentz’s allegation).”

In his quest for a new trial, Bashara said he had wanted his attorneys to tell jurors more about Jane Bashara’s medical problems, which he claimed forced him to have affairs.

“You were willing to expose (her problems) for your insatiable desires,” Evans said. “You exploited them for your own desires.”

With Friday’s ruling, Bashara’s next move will be to request the Michigan Court of Appeals hear the case, Ambrose said after the hearing.

After the decision, Bashara was, “disappointed, obviously,” Ambrose told reporters in the courthouse hallway outside Evans’ courtroom after the hearing.

Ambrose filed a motion asking for a new trial in September 2015. The motion claimed prosecutors and the media portrayed Bashara as a monster.

Evans gave prosecutors and defense attorneys 40 minutes each to make their final arguments before she would decide whether to grant Bashara a new trial.

After both sides had their say, Evans said she would render her decision at 12:15 p.m. before calling a recess.

Ambrose was first to make his case Friday morning.

“The court can grant a new trial for any cause ... when it appears justice has not been done. I can pound my fist on the table as long as we want that I have that. Justice has not been done in this case.”

At one point during Ambrose’s argument, Bashara started to say something. When chided by the judge for interrupting, Bashara replied: “I know this case forward and backward. This is my life we’re talking about here. I have a right to assist my attorney.”

“You have a right to assist,” Evans shot back. “But you don’t have the right to be disruptive.”

Ambrose insisted a new trial should be ordered because witnesses said Bashara was at the bar he owned, the Hard Luck Lounge in Grosse Pointe Park, at the time his wife was killed.

“That alone should be enough for a new trial,” Ambrose told the judge.

Another point Ambrose stressed: Joseph Gentz, the handyman who pleaded guilty to strangling Jane Bashara, filed an affidavit refuting the story he’d told police earlier: That Bashara forced him at gunpoint to commit the killing.

In the affidavit, filed Jan. 12, Gentz said Bashara wasn’t in the garage when the killing happened. Gentz said he got mad because Bob Bashara owed him money for work he’d done.

However, when Gentz was called to the witness stand in April, he stuck to his original story: That Bashara was in the garage, and forced Gentz to kill his wife.

“He pulls a gun on me and says, ‘Shut her up.’ So I broke her neck,” Gentz testified.

“After she was dead, he pulls her top up and says, ‘I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it.’ And pulls her top back down,” Gentz said.

Evans said Ambrose said when “now, we want to say he can’t be believed. You can’t have it both ways. You could have talked to him; you could have found out what he was going to say was consistent with that affidavit.”

Ambrose said he didn’t feel he needed to vet Gentz’s story, since he signed the affidavit before a Notary Public. Evans said that didn’t matter.

“You said when you filed the affidavit (Gentz) was the star witness...who would (help free Bashara). Now you want to make him out to be this villain. You can’t have it both ways.”

Ambrose also said his client’s former attorneys, Lillian Diallo and Michael McCarthy, erred by not trying hard enough to get the trial moved to another venue. He said the jury pool was tainted by all the publicity the case received.

“This was a much publicized case from the beginning,” Ambrose said. “There never was there much thought of changing the venue.”

Ambrose said he studied how out-of-town newspapers handled the case. “They just didn’t cover the Bashara case (like Metro Detroit media did).”

Evans pointed out the case was live-streamed, and that anyone with a computer worldwide could have watched.

“I don’t think the saturation of this case reached (other areas),” Ambrose said, to which Evans replied: “Well, it reached People magazine.”

After Ambrose’s 40 minutes were up, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Jon Wojtala said: ““There’s been a lot of finger-pointing in this case. We even heard it was Jane Bashara’s fault, because he’s a hot-blooded male, and if she didn’t have (a medical) condition, he wouldn’t have (had affairs).

“It’s everyone’s fault — but Mr. Bashara’s,” Wojtala said.

Wojtala only used a few minutes of his allotted time, ending by saying: “The defense had a burden, and they failed to make it. Thank you.” Then he sat down.

Days after Jane Bashara was killed, Gentz walked into the Grosse Pointe Park police station and told detectives Bashara had forced him 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.

While Gentz was in jail, Bashara tried to hire a furniture store owner to kill him. 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.

His often raucous trial lasted two months, with 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 Gillet.

Bashara was found guilty in December 2014 of first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN