Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cuadra Trial... Day 11 Overview

Joseph Kerekes

The Citizens' Voice reports that Harlow Cuadra admitted he was in Bryan Kocis’ Dallas Township home on Jan. 24, 2007, but testified Tuesday he didn’t kill Kocis.

His partner, Joseph Kerekes, stabbed Kocis in a jealous rage, Cuadra told jurors in the 11th day of testimony in his capital homicide trial.

Later, when he asked Kerekes about the crime, Kerekes ignored him, Cuadra said.

“He told me, ‘So what, I killed him,’” Cuadra testified. “‘So what? I got away with murder.’”

Three potential defense witnesses were called, but most of Tuesday was dedicated to Cuadra, 27, who stated his case that he didn’t kill 44-year-old Kocis. Cuadra detailed his personal life, how he met Kerekes and the controlling manner Kerekes had over him. Cuadra knew Kerekes had killed Kocis, he said, but he didn’t go to police out of fear of what might happen to Kerekes or what he might do to him.

“People can say, ‘Harlow, do this’ or ‘Harlow, do that,’ but they don’t know,” Cuadra said. “They’re not Harlow. They’re not with Joseph. Individual valor doesn’t matter when you’re with Joseph in a little room.”

Before Cuadra took the stand, jurors saw Kerekes, who was called to testify. Wearing prison garb and shackles, Kerekes took the stand briefly but refused to speak about the case.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents, and it would destroy them if I said something that I didn’t do,” Kerekes said. He said he had spoken with Cuadra’s attorney Joseph D’Andrea about testifying but had changed his mind.

Kerekes, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree homicide in December and is serving a life sentence. In his plea, he said Cuadra killed Kocis and then set fire to his Dallas Township home in January 2007.

“You stole my son,” Cuadra’s mother shouted at Kerekes as he left the courtroom.

Cuadra, who has said little publicly since his May 2007 arrest for Kocis’ homicide, could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree homicide. He sobbed and had to stop several times during his more than four hours of testimony. Cuadra will remain on the stand this morning as lead prosecutor Michael Melnick continues his cross-examination.

It was Kerekes’ initial idea to shoot a film with Cobra Video, the gay pornography company owned by Kocis, Cuadra said. Kerekes set up the e-mail account for “Danny Moilin,” and Cuadra just followed along. Moilin was the name of a fictitious model who was to meet with Kocis the day he was killed. Kocis knew who he was, based on the photos Kerekes had e-mailed him, Cuadra said.

“I asked him about Cobra,” Cuadra said, indicating it was a bizarre name. “He said ‘better than Boy Batter.’”

Boy Batter is the gay pornography Web site Cuadra and Kerekes ran in Virginia Beach, Va.

Kerekes dropped Cuadra off around 7 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2007, at Kocis’ home for a potential video shoot with Kocis, Cuadra said. For about 20 minutes, Cuadra talked pleasantly with Kocis at his Midland Drive home, Cuadra said, when a “rapid knock” came at the front door.

“I never thought it would be Joe,” Cuadra said, but it was Kerekes who “stormed through the door” and began to fight with Kocis. Kerekes pulled out a small knife and then slashed Kocis’ neck, Cuadra said.

“I’m shouting at Joe, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’” Cuadra said. “He pushed me down.”

Scared, Cuadra left and hid in the rental car the two men had driven to Pennsylvania, Cuadra said, as Kerekes lit fire to Kocis’ home and likely stole things from his home.

The plan to shoot with Cobra came together after a previous business relationship started to fall through, Cuadra said. Kerekes and Cuadra met with Grant Roy, another pornography producer, and his business partner Sean Lockhart in Las Vegas around Jan. 10, 2007, Cuadra said. Kerekes and Roy wanted Lockhart and Cuadra to shoot three films together.

“They talked about the deal like (Lockhart and I) weren’t even there,” Cuadra said. “Joe and Grant were both really excited about it.”

Kerekes tried to give Roy $12,000 in cash to seal the negotiation, Cuadra testified, but Roy turned it down saying, “We’ll all make a lot of money out of this.”

Kocis had a contract with Lockhart at the time, which was a problem, Cuadra said. Roy mentioned during dinner that the issue was being settled, but there was still animosity, Cuadra said.

“Joe said, ‘I would’ve killed him a long time ago,’” Cuadra testified. According to Cuadra’s testimony, Roy responded: “Yeah, I thought about that. But you know what, the way this thing is, if that (expletive) ends up dead everyone will be looking at pointing the finger to me.”

Melnick questioned various aspects of Cuadra’s story during about an hour of cross-examination.

“Mr. Cuadra, let’s cut to the chase. Are you saying that Grant Roy and Sean Lockhart have anything to do with this murder?” Melnick asked.

“No,” Cuadra responded. Melnick cited other examples where Cuadra’s testimony didn’t match prosecution evidence.

He showed credit cards that Kerekes owned — Cuadra had said Kerekes would pay for things using credit cards in Cuadra’s name.

Melnick cited a letter Cuadra had written from jail to a friend, that said he’d “need an attorney who can tell a good story.”

“A good story, not the truth?” Melnick asked.

And, Melnick showed e-mails and phone calls that indicated Cuadra wanted to meet with Kocis a day before he was killed.

“You wanted to kill him on Tuesday night, didn’t you?” Melnick asked.

“No,” Cuadra said. Melnick asked why Cuadra didn’t tell police the story once he was in jail on the crime.

“You met him,” Cuadra said, crying and pointing to a detective on the case. “He would’ve killed me.”
Meanwhille, the Times Leader is reporting a jealous Joseph Kerekes stormed into the home and slashed Bryan Kocis’ throat, a crying Harlow Cuadra testified on Tuesday.

Ignoring his attorneys’ advice to remain silent, Cuadra, 27, took the witness stand in his own capital murder trial explaining his entire life to the Luzerne County jury and events that happened before and after Kocis’ murder on Jan. 24, 2007.

It didn’t take long for Assistant District Attorney Michael Melnick to confront Cuadra about the homicide.

“There was nothing to stop you from calling Pennsylvania police?” Melnick asked.

“Sir, I was so scared, I wasn’t scared of the authorities, I was scared of Joseph (Kerekes).”

For much of his testimony, Cuadra portrayed Kerekes as a person who controlled his life, explaining their relationship as the Stockholm Syndrome.

“I couldn’t go into a grocery store to buy toilet paper without him being there,” Cuadra said, adding Kerekes kept 16 to 18 credit cards in his name.

Prosecutors alleged Kocis was killed because Cuadra and Kerekes considered him their main rival in the gay adult film production industry, and wanted to work with adult film actor Sean Lockhart, who was a contract actor for Kocis’ company, Cobra Video.

Cuadra said it was Kerekes who contacted Kocis about appearing in Cobra Video movies, and was aware Kerekes e-mailed Kocis an application under the name Danny Moilin on Jan. 22.

Kocis agreed to meet with Moilin on Jan. 24.

Cuadra said Kerekes dropped him off at Kocis’ home on Midland Drive and drove away.

Inside, Cuadra – who Kocis kept calling Danny – said he was sitting on a couch with Kocis getting to know each other.

Then, Cuadra said he heard “loud, rapid knocks” on the door.

"Bryan gets up and goes up to the door; the minute he turns that knob, Joseph comes in," a sobbing Cuadra told the jury. "They fight a little at the door, I’m yelling, ’Joseph, what are you doing.’

"Joseph looks at me, and knocks Bryan in the face. Bryan was wearing one of those workout suits, all black, no shoes just white socks, and Joseph grabs Bryan and throws him on the couch and starts punching the hell out of him," Cuadra said.

Cuadra said he jumped on Kerekes’ back in an attempt to stop the assault.

"Joseph reaches in his pocket and pulls out a knife and slashed Bryan’s throat. I yelled, ‘Joe, what are you doing, he said to get the (expletive) out.’ "

Cuadra said he hid in the rented Nissan XTerra parked in Kocis’ driveway. Kerekes was in Kocis’ home for 15 minutes when he came outside and placed computer towers, two laptop computers and other items in the vehicle, Cuadra said.

Kerekes drove away and pulled into a service station where he disposed of a laptop computer and papers taken from Kocis’ home, Cuadra said.

Cuadra drove the rest of the way returning to their hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., on Jan. 25.

On the trip to Virginia, Cuadra said Kerekes told him, “Baby, we cannot talk about this ever again.”

Cuadra said he informed Kerekes that several of their escort clients, including Kerekes’ mother, knew about their trip to Pennsylvania.

“That was the longest day of my life,” Cuadra said. “I completely shut down after that day, completely shut down. I stopped seeing clients.”

Cuadra and Kerekes operated a male escort service and a gay pornographic movie Web site.

Days after Kocis’ murder, Cuadra said Kerekes began to panic and the pair stayed in several Virginia Beach hotels.

Cuadra said they fled the Virginia Beach area after learning authorities had raided their home on Feb. 10, 2007.

“Joseph started feeling really paranoid and rightly so,” Cuadra said. “I think it was beginning to dawn on him that he made his last mistake.”

Using an escort client’s vehicle, Cuadra said they fled to Jacksonville, Fla, where they stayed in a hotel for a night, and made their way to a hotel in South Beach, Fla., where they stayed for about 45 days. Cuadra said when he found out he was a person of interest in the murder, he begged Kerekes to return to their Virginia Beach home, which they did a day before Easter on April 7.

Cuadra claimed he wanted to talk with investigators, but Kerekes stopped him.

“He wouldn’t let me go anywhere by myself,” Cuadra said about Kerekes.

While they were staying away from authorities, Cuadra said he found out Kerekes maintained contact with Lockhart and Grant Roy, a producer of gay pornographic films.

The four men had met at an Adult Video News expo in Las Vegas, Nev., in mid-January 2007, before Kocis’ murder. During dinner at the Le Cirque restaurant at the Bellagio, Cuadra said he played “footsies” with Lockhart while Roy and Kerekes talked about producing movies together.

Cuadra said Lockhart and Roy were Kerekes’ “biggest obsession.”

At the time of their Las Vegas meeting, Kocis had a verbal settlement in a civil federal lawsuit he filed against Roy and Lockhart.

Cuadra said Kerekes forced him to travel to San Diego, Calif., where the four men had dinner at a restaurant on April 27 and visited a nude beach on April 28.

Investigators intercepted conversations through recording devices carried by Roy, who was cooperating with authorities.

“I was a mess, I had five o’clock shadow; I didn’t care if Sean Lockhart liked me,” Cuadra said. “We had dinner and you guys (prosecutors) heard all that.”

Cuadra said Kerekes “reprimanded” him after the April 27 dinner to “sell” their business proposal to Roy and Lockhart.

It was during conversations on the beach where investigators alleged Cuadra and Kerekes made admissions to Kocis’ murder.

Cuadra said he was referring to his childhood when he was molested by his stepfather, and Kerekes kept drilling into him that Kocis had a conviction of possession of child pornography.

“That’s what Kerekes told me, that I got revenge. It all ended up twisted in that statement,” Cuadra said.