Friday, February 27, 2009

Cuadra Trial... Day 3 Overview

Robert Wagner

A report from the Times Leader says... Robert Wagner said he told his best friend, Bryan Kocis, that the man who had applied to become a gay pornographic film model was not right for the part.

Kocis sought Wagner’s advice on the potential new model named Danny Moilin for Kocis’ production company, Cobra Video.

“I didn’t think he would be good; he was muscular and old,” Wagner said about Moilin in testimony Thursday in the murder trial of Harlow Cuadra.

Kocis went ahead and invited Moilin into his Midland Drive, Dallas Township, residence on Jan. 24, 2007. Township firefighters found Kocis dead that night inside his burned-out home.

Investigators allege Cuadra, 27, set up several e-mail accounts in the days before Jan. 24 and sent Kocis two applications under the fictitious name of Danny Moilin. The applications were Cuadra’s way to get invited into Kocis’ home to kill his main rival in the pornographic movie industry, prosecutors claim.

Cuadra and his partner, Joseph Kerekes, 35, both from Virginia Beach, Va., were charged with Kocis’ murder. Kerekes pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Cuadra if he is convicted of first-degree homicide.

Wagner, who testified Thursday, said Kocis was “reclusive” and didn’t allow anyone inside his home unless he was expecting someone.

“He never let anyone in; if someone came to the door, he just wouldn’t answer it. He definitely wanted notice that someone was coming,” Wagner testified.

He said Kocis told him he was meeting a potential new model on Jan. 24, and that Kocis was “really excited about it.”

Kocis’ company accepted model applications on its Web site, and he would often ask Wagner for his opinions. Shortly after receiving the new model applications, Wagner said, Kocis was in the process of settling a year-long federal civil lawsuit he filed against his actor, Sean Lockhart, and Lockhart’s business agent, Grant Roy.

“He was about to do cartwheels because he was settling the civil lawsuit,” Wagner said.

Wagner did tell Cuadra’s lawyers, Joseph D’Andrea and Paul Walker, that there was tension among Kocis, Lockhart and Roy despite the suit being settled out-of-court.

“It was a business relationship. They all had to share the same sandbox,” Wagner described the situation.

While Kocis was settling the lawsuit with Lockhart and Roy, investigators allege Cuadra and Kerekes met Lockhart and Roy during the adult video news award ceremony in Las Vegas, Nev., in mid-January 2007.

Assistant district attorneys Michael Melnick, Shannon Crake and Allyson Kacmarski claim Cuadra and Kerekes killed Kocis to avoid paying Cobra Video 20 percent of proceeds from movies involving Lockhart.

After Kocis was killed, prosecutors allege Kocis’ home was set on fire to cover up the murder. The jury of eight men and four women got a good look at Kocis’ fire-damaged door and plasma television that investigators brought into the courtroom on Thursday.

The jury also was shown a series of photographs of Kocis’ burned home.

State police Trooper Michael Boone, a member of the forensic services unit, testified Kocis’ body was found on a couch, and the fire started near the door behind a love seat. Several smoke detectors were found on tables and the floor, apparently pulled from the ceiling and wall, Boone said.

Several Midland Drive residents testified that they saw Kocis’ house on fire just after 8:30 p.m. Jan. 24. Two of the witnesses also said they saw a light-colored SUV parked in Kocis’ driveway earlier that night.

Prosecutors allege Cuadra rented a silver 2004 Nissan XTerra from Enterprise Car Rental in Virginia Beach on Jan. 23, and returned the vehicle on Jan. 25 with more than 1,000 miles on the odometer.

Thirty-four witnesses have been called to testify in three days of the trial that began on Tuesday before Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr.

Prosecutors are expected to call Roy and Lockhart to testify and to play two recorded conversations they had with Cuadra and Lockhart in San Diego, Calif., on April 27 and April 28, 2007.

Investigators claim Cuadra and Lockhart made several admissions about Kocis’ murder to Roy and Lockhart.

Testimony is expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.

Meanwhile, the Citizens' Voice gives a good account of what Kocis' neighbors testified to... the fire that ravaged Bryan Kocis’ Dallas Township home was “large, huge, something I’ve never seen before,” a neighbor testified Thursday.

Amy Lynne Withers had lived next door to Kocis on Midland Drive for 20 years, on Jan. 24, 2007, when the fire at his house grew so large she had to evacuate her own home.

Five of Kocis’ neighbors testified Thursday in the capital homicide trial of Harlow Cuadra. None of them knew Kocis well, or had even met him, but they were the first to report the crime or see a silver sport utility vehicle parked in his driveway.

Withers said she was aware of Kocis’ involvement in the gay pornography industry, but little more. While waiting for her friend, Amy Zamerowski, 27, to arrive, Withers said she heard a single car door slam outside her home, but never saw the car.

When Zamerowski arrived about an hour later at 8:26 p.m., she testified that she saw a light-colored SUV pulling out of Kocis’ driveway. She testified that she heard a “steady beeping” emanating from Kocis’ house as she walked toward Withers’ front door. Withers and Zamerowski said nothing was out of the ordinary until approximately 8:40 p.m., when someone banged loudly on the front door to alert them that Kocis’ house was on fire.

James Gilbert testified that while walking his dog on Midland Drive, he passed Kocis’ house.

“I saw a silver SUV parked next to Kocis’ car in the driveway,” he said.

He did not see the SUV’s license plate number.

Donna Yachim of 45 Midland Drive, lived across the street from Kocis, and observed the SUV driving up Midland Drive.

“The SUV was driving abnormally slow as if it were looking for a property,” she said.

She could not identify any person in the car or see the license plate number. Yachim also said her view of Kocis’ driveway was obscured and she could not determine if the SUV pulled into his driveway.

Yachim’s daughter, Kaytlin, saw Kocis’ house was on fire from her bedroom window and told her mother, who promptly dialed 911.
Also from the Citizens' Voice... Bryan Kocis was a reclusive man.

He kept several pistols hidden throughout his house for protection, and if people stopped by his Dallas Township home unannounced, he wouldn’t answer the door, a friend and former actor of Kocis’ testified Thursday.

In January 2007, however, Kocis let his guard down. He was thrilled with his gay pornography business. He had just settled a year-long legal issue with one of his actors, and a potential new model was supposed to audition at his home on Jan. 24, 2007, the day Kocis was killed, Robert Wagner said in the third day of testimony in the capital homicide trial of Harlow Cuadra.

“(Kocis) was very excited. He thought (the model) was very cute,” said Wagner, who worked for Kocis’ Cobra video starting in 2000, acting, shooting video among other things.

Cuadra, prosecutors allege, killed Kocis to eliminate him as a rival of the gay pornography business he co-owned with Joseph Kerekes in Virginia Beach, Va. Kerekes pleaded guilty in December to second-degree homicide and is serving a life sentence.

Cuadra and Kerekes wanted to hire Sean Lockhart, who acted under the name Brent Corrigan, but Kocis was an impediment, previous witnesses said.

Kocis was in a legal disagreement with Lockhart, and his partner Grant Roy, Wagner testified, but the men had reached an agreement about filming rights in early January 2007 during meetings in Las Vegas and later San Diego. Everyone was happy with the new arrangement, Wagner remembered, and they had a party in San Diego to celebrate.

“The weight of the world had been lifted off (their) shoulders,” Wagner said.

Wagner visited Kocis the weekend before he was killed. In the days leading to his death, Kocis and Wagner talked daily on the phone, particularly about the model who applied online at Kocis’ Web site and called himself Danny Moilin. Wagner reviewed photos Moilin sent Kocis with his application. The man in the photos, which were shown to the jury, appears to be Cuadra.

Prosecutors have called 35 witnesses so far, but are only about a third of the way through their case. Several of Kocis’ neighbors testified Thursday they saw a silver sport utility vehicle parked in the Kocis driveway the night he was killed. Two days earlier Cuadra used his Discover card to rent a silver Nissan Xterra, from a Virginia Beach business, an employee of Discover Financial testified.

Five pistols were found hidden throughout Kocis’ house, state Trooper Michael Boone testified. Boone testified about evidence investigators found at the crime scene, and will resume his testimony today.

Andrew Pappas, a Drug Enforcement Agency officer in San Diego, testified Thursday he helped investigators with a recording device inside a key chain used to record a conversation among Cuadra, Kerekes, Roy and Lockhart at a nude beach in the San Diego area.

Cuadra admitted to the crimes, prosecutors say, in the taped conversation, which hasn’t been played for the jury yet. Roy and Lockhart are expected to testify to the tape and other conversations they had with Cuadra about Kocis.