Friday, July 25, 2008

Kerekes, Cops Tell 2 Versions of Meeting


Today's Times Leader reports that Homicide suspect Joseph Kerekes called it a “soap opera,” as he recalled his meeting with Pennsylvania investigators soon after he was arrested in Virginia for the January 2007 slaying of a Dallas Township man.

Kerekes, 34, said he twice asked for an attorney as state police Cpl. Leo Hannon Jr., along with FBI Special Agent James Glenn, read him the criminal complaint accusing him of the homicide of Bryan Kocis.

“I told him I didn’t want to hear it. I just put my head down and they went on,” Kerekes said. “It was a soap opera. I asked twice for a lawyer.”

Kerekes recalled the meeting during Thursday’s pre-trial hearing before Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra, 26, both of Virginia Beach, are accused of killing Kocis, 44, at his Midland Drive home on Jan. 24, 2007. They were arrested by Virginia Beach authorities on May 15, 2007, soon after Hannon obtained an arrest warrant for the two from District Judge James Tupper in Trucksville.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Kerekes and Cuadra.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick called Kerekes to testify on Thursday because his lawyers, Shelley Centini and John Pike, are seeking to prevent statements Kerekes allegedly made after his arrest from being used against him at the upcoming trial.

Kerekes said neither Virginia Beach authorities nor Hannon read him his Miranda rights. He also denied he interrupted Hannon with apparent self-incriminating statements.

Hannon, a veteran homicide investigator, said it’s his personal policy to read a defendant the criminal charges against him. He claimed Kerekes interrupted his reading of the criminal complaint and affidavit, pointing out he told Kerekes to stop several times to consult with an attorney.

“He said, ‘What do you want?’ ” Hannon said. “I said I want the truth. He started talking but I cut him off and advised him to speak with a lawyer if he wanted to make a statement.”

Centini and Pike said the meeting with Kerekes was an interrogation because Kerekes was in police custody.

Melnick said reading of the criminal complaint and affidavit is not an interrogation because Hannon and Glenn didn’t present any evidence to Kerekes during the meeting.

“None of that happened,” Melnick said.

Kerekes’ attorneys and Cuadra’s attorneys, Michael Senape and Steven Menn, are also seeking to exclude items seized from their clients’ Virginia Beach home during a February 2007 search. They also want to exclude two recorded conversations Kerekes and Cuadra had with two prosecution witnesses, Grant Roy and Sean Lockhart, in San Diego, Calif., in April 2007.

They say Pennsylvania law should apply to the search and the recorded conversations because Pennsylvania has the greater interest in the case.

Melnick said the search of the Virginia Beach home was executed by Virginia Beach authorities, and conversations in San Diego were recorded by California authorities. In both cases, Melnick acknowledged Pennsylvania investigators were involved, but argued Olszewski should honor the laws in both states.

Roy, who testified on Thursday, said he volunteered to record the conversations he had with Kerekes and Cuadra at a restaurant and a beach.

Kerekes and Cuadra traveled to San Diego to discuss the production of gay pornographic movies with Lockhart, who was a model for Kocis’ company, Cobra Video. Lockhart also was Roy’s business partner.

“I’m trying to get information out of these guys,” Roy said while pointing to Kerekes and Cuadra. “Any way I could get it.”

Senape said investigators initially considered Roy and Lockhart suspects in the homicide investigation because they were defendants in a civil lawsuit Kocis had filed against them claiming trademark infringements.

Centini said laws governing recorded conversations by authorities differ in Pennsylvania and California.

“Pennsylvania authorities took control of the recording, took possession of the recording and brought the recording to Pennsylvania,” Centini said.