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Killer pleads no contest to witness intimidation in Martinsburg

January 04, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A New York City man found guilty in the 2005 shooting death of Donald "Dee" Redman in November 2007 will not contest charges that he attempted to intimidate and retaliate against witnesses who testified in his murder trial.

John J. Grant, 23, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 4 for a second-degree murder conviction by a jury. He avoided additional jail time Thursday by entering no-contest pleas to two misdemeanor counts of intimidation of witnesses and one felony count of retaliation against witnesses.

A second count of witness retaliation was dismissed and jail sentences that come with the remaining charges of a four-count indictment will be served concurrently with the sentence for second-degree murder.

"These charges threaten the very fiber and integrity of the judicial system itself ..." said 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III, who said he was initially inclined to reject the plea deal until hearing arguments from Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely.

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Silver is to sentence Grant to a prison term of as many as 40 years for the second-degree murder conviction.

Grant, and a man authorities only know by the street name "Prince," took part in an execution-style shooting of Redman, 29, of Martinsburg, at a Third Street duplex on the morning of Oct. 27, 2005, police have said.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely told the judge Thursday that witnesses who testified for the state in Grant's murder trial did not want to return to the court to testify about the intimidation or retaliation charges.

While incarcerated in Eastern Region Jail, Grant wrote letters to a friend that asked her to help him convince certain witnesses to change their testimony or physically injure them or not to testify at all, police have said.

Grant's friend did not follow through on his alleged attempts, and Games-Neely said Thursday the victims only learned of the letters through the state's investigation of the writings, which she added were discovered "by accident."

Though giving up additional jail time because of the plea, Games-Neely said she was satisfied that Grant's plea included a felony conviction.

"This gets (the witnesses) out of harm's way," Games-Neely said after Grant signed a plea agreement form a few minutes before the hearing ended.

Defense attorney B. Craig Manford told Silver that even if the state's witnesses became hostile to Games-Neely in a second trial, the prosecutor could still impeach her own witnesses with the testimony they gave during Grant's murder trial.

"I think he's making a wise choice by taking (the) plea," Manford told the judge.

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