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Man has day in court on murder solicitation charge

December 22, 2009|BY BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- A man who last week refused to testify during an attempted-murder trial appeared Tuesday morning in Washington County Circuit Court on charges of soliciting first-degree murder and intimidating a witness.

Louis Geraldo Gonzalez, 27, of 82 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown, who is being held without bond at Washington County Detention Center, is accused of trying to entice someone to kill Bruce Jones, who was shot during a robbery in Smithsburg on Jan. 27.

Gonzalez originally faced 15 charges relating to the shooting, but entered an Alford plea to one count of armed robbery in September. Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not acknowledge guilt but admits sufficient evidence exists for the state to gain a conviction.

At a motions hearing Tuesday before Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, attorney John Salvatore entered a motion to strike his appearance as Gonzalez's defense counsel in the case. Salvatore said the state had submitted a plea offer, but he did not discuss the terms of the proposed plea.

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The case is set for another hearing in Circuit Court on Jan. 4.

According to court records, a confidential informant told police in August that while housed at the detention center, Gonzalez was "looking for someone to kill the victim, co-defendant (Anthony Caldwell) and investigating officer" in his criminal case.

The informant allegedly told investigators "Gonzalez believed that if there was no one to testify in his upcoming criminal case that the case would be dropped and he would be released from custody," according to court records.

Caldwell, Jones and the investigator were provided police protection, court records show.

Gonzalez allegedly offered another inmate, believed to be a member of the "DMI" gang, a kilo of raw heroin and $22,000 in exchange for Jones' murder, according to court records.

Under the terms of the Alford plea agreement, the state dropped the remaining charges in exchange for Gonzalez's testimony against Caldwell, according to evidence that surfaced during Caldwell's second trial last week.

That trial, as well as the first in September, ended in a mistrial because of a juror issue that didn't arise until after the jury began deliberations.

Shortly after Gonzalez testified at Caldwell's first trial, a Washington County grand jury indicted him on the murder solicitation charges.

He refused to testify against Caldwell during last week's trial, invoking his right against self-incrimination.

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