Thursday, July 31, 2008

Prosecutor: Kerekes Threatened to Shift Blame

According to the Times Leader... a Luzerne County prosecutor offered evidence indicating that Joseph Kerekes threatened to blame a pornographic movie producer in the January 2007 slaying of Bryan Kocis in Dallas Township.

Assistant District Attorney Shannon Crake made the reference during a pre-trial hearing for Kerekes, 34, and his partner, Harlow Cuadra, 26, before Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. on Wednesday.

Kerekes and Cuadra, both from Virginia Beach, Va., are charged in the killing of the 44-year-old Kocis, whom they considered their main rival in the gay movie production industry, according to arrest and court records.

Prosecutors claim Kerekes and Cuadra wanted to film movies with Sean Lockhart, who was prevented from working with another company because of a contract with Kocis’ business, Cobra Video.

Three pre-trial hearings have been held in anticipation of the September trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Kerekes and Cuadra.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Crake was arguing in support of allowing the jury to hear certain acts Kerekes and Cuadra allegedly committed before and after Kocis was killed on Jan. 24, 2007.

Crake said Kerekes told Lockhart’s business agent, Grant Roy, “If you don’t film with us, we’re going to tell police you hired us.”

She argued that the jury should be permitted to hear the statement, and other conversations Kerekes and Cuadra had with Lockhart and Roy about filming movies together.

At least two conversations were recorded by investigators in San Diego, Calif., where the four men talked about payments “under the table” to avoid paying Cobra Video.

A federal civil lawsuit Kocis filed against Roy, Lockhart and their production company, LSG Media, was settled out of court days before Kocis was killed. The settlement required Cobra Video to receive 20 percent of revenue earned from sales involving Lockhart, according to federal court records.

“It goes to the ultimate motive to the homicide of Bryan Kocis, that they (Kerekes and Cuadra) wanted to recruit Sean Lockhart as a model,” Crake said.

Cuadra’s lawyers, Steven Menn and Michael Senape, said any references about “under the table” payments were made by Roy, not Cuadra.

Menn and Senape, and Kerekes’ attorneys, Shelley Centini and John Pike, are seeking to have separate trials for their clients, claiming their separate defenses may implicate each other in the killing.

Kerekes maintained that he was at a Plains Township motel using a laptop computer to schedule an appointment for their escort business while Cuadra visited Kocis.

Cuadra said he was never at Kocis’ home.

“That puts us in direct confrontation with the co-defendant,” Pike said.

Crake said there are witnesses who will testify during the trial that places both men at Kocis’ home the night Kocis was killed.