Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cuadra Trial... Day 5 Overview

Grant Roy

The Citizens' Voice reports that Grant Roy publicly criticized Bryan Kocis in the months leading to Kocis’ death on Jan. 24, 2007, because the two men were in a legal dispute over an actor. Roy had created an Internet site called “Cobra Killer,” referring to Kocis’ gay pornography business, Cobra Video.

But when Roy met with Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes at a Las Vegas restaurant two weeks before Kocis’ death, he made it very clear that Kocis shouldn’t be harmed.

“I told them, ‘If something happened to Bryan, they’re going to show up at my door the next day,’” Roy testified Monday in Cuadra’s capital homicide trial. “If something happened to either one of us, they’re going to show up at his door the next day.”

Five witnesses were called in the fifth day of testimony, but Roy stayed on the witness stand for the majority of the day. Four witnesses testified to electronic and financial records pertaining to the case.

Jurors heard the first of two recorded conversations that Roy had with Cuadra, Kerekes and his business partner, Sean Lockhart.

Cuadra, 27, could face the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree homicide in Kocis’ stabbing death. Kerekes, 35, pleaded guilty in December to second-degree homicide and is serving a life sentence.

Jurors listened to a more than four-hour audio recording of an April 27, 2007, conversation among the four men that occurred primarily at the Crab Catcher restaurant in La Jolla, Calif., outside San Diego.

Cuadra and Kerekes came to San Diego, Roy testified, to try to cement a deal in which Cuadra and Lockhart would act in pornographic films together. Cuadra and Kerekes owned a male escort service and gay pornography business in Virginia Beach, Va.

Roy, who was cooperating with police, wore a recording device inside his shirt when he and Lockhart, who was also cooperating, met with the two Virginia men. Jurors wore headphones and followed a transcript as they listened to the recording. Cuadra scribbled notes in a legal pad and motioned to his attorneys several times.

Roy and Kerekes spoke during most of the tape, which focused on a potential deal between the two parties. Kerekes didn’t directly speak about Kocis’ death, and jokes once about the fact he isn’t revealing more.

“You understand why I’m not talking more about anything, right?” he said during the recording. “I don’t know if there’s a wire on you.”

At times, Kerekes sounds overly eager to make a deal with Roy, offering to pay him and Lockhart up front to shoot a couple of scenes.

“What I was gonna say is this: If you guys can give us like a word right now, and a time right tomorrow, I’ll give you an extra grand, 7 grand,” Kerekes said.

Kerekes and Cuadra speak about investigators raiding their home in Virginia Beach, but the two men later say they believe the investigation was coming to a close.

“Our neighbor was … giving us play by play, and now the fire department’s here, and they’re bringing out all this equipment …,” Cuadra said.

Cuadra spoke relatively little on the tape compared to Kerekes. Roy, pushing for information about Kocis, asks at one point, “Did he suffer? Or was it quick? Sean’s wondering?”

Kerekes avoided the question, but Cuadra later responds:

“I’ll tell you what, when we’re nude on that beach you can ask me whatever the hell you want.”

The men had agreed to meet at Black’s Beach, also in La Jolla, the next day. Roy also recorded conversations that day, using a digital recorder hidden in a key chain, a previous witness testified. Jurors will likely hear that more than two-hours-long recorded conversation today.

Before the recording was played Monday, Roy testified Kerekes and Cuadra were very pushy to make a film. Kerekes, using Cuadra’s MySpace Web site, sent threatening messages to Lockhart, Roy said. The messages included comments such as, “We had an agreement” and had a threatening tone.

“Harlow and both Joe seemed a little eager to get this production under way,” Roy testified about the first time he met with the two men in Las Vegas. “I didn’t see the need to rush. At various times, I expressed to them I didn’t think it’d be a problem if we could get out from this mediation (with Kocis).”

Cuadra’s attorneys have yet to cross-examine Roy.
Meanwhile, according to the Times Leader... adult-film producer Grant Roy excused himself from the dinner table to use the restroom.

Once inside, Roy called investigators, who told him to continue talking with Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes.

Investigators were recording their conversation at the Crabcatchers Cafe outside San Diego through a receiver placed on Roy’s belt buckle.

Roy and his business partner, Sean Lockhart, had agreed to cooperate with investigators probing the death of gay pornographic movie producer Bryan Kocis, 44, in Dallas Township in January 2007.

Cuadra, 27, and Kerekes, 35, were suspects in Kocis’ murder when Roy and Lockhart invited them to San Diego in April 2007 to discuss filming movies together.

Unbeknown to Cuadra and Kerekes, investigators recorded their conversations at the cafe and at a nude beach outside San Diego.

Three weeks after investigators alleged Cuadra and Kerekes made several “admissions” to the homicide, they were charged with Kocis’ murder in May 2007.

Kerekes pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Assistant district attorneys Michael Melnick, Shannon Crake and Allyson Kacmarski on Monday played the Crabcatchers recording to the jury deciding the fate of Cuadra, who faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree homicide.

His trial before Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. is in its second week.

For more than three hours, the jury listened and read the 184-page transcript of the Crabcatchers conversation on the trial’s fifth day of testimony. Most of the conversation involved Roy and Kerekes, who was pressuring Roy into filming several scenes involving Lockhart and Cuadra.

Roy was reluctant to begin filming, telling Kerekes and Cuadra he wanted to think about their plan. Kerekes discussed ways to pay Roy and Lockhart royalty fees under the table to avoid paying Kocis’ company.

Cuadra discussed losing his filming equipment that was seized when authorities searched his and Kerekes’ Virginia Beach home on Feb. 10, 2007.

When Roy excused himself from the dinner table to use the restroom, he used a cell phone to call investigators. After he returned to the table, Roy changed the conversation’s topic to the fallout on their business due to Kocis’ death.

“My career is ruined, now I … once everyone wanted to work with me, and everyone wanted to be involved with me, and now no one wants to touch me,” said Lockhart, according to the transcript.

Kerekes apologized to Roy and Lockhart “for hurting you guys and messing things up; I really do, I messed up our lives too,” the transcript says.

In an attempt to settle the concerns of Roy and Lockhart, Kerekes told them, according to the transcript, that authorities in Pennsylvania put the investigation “on the back burner.”

At one point during the conversation, Roy asked Kerekes, “Did he suffer. Or was it quick? Sean’s wondering.”

Kerekes responded, “I don’t know nothing about … ha, ha, ha,” the transcript says.

Lockhart testified on Friday that Cuadra told him after dinner, “Don’t worry, it was quick; he went quick.”

Cuadra’s alleged comment to Lockhart wasn’t recorded.

After Roy and Lockhart departed, Lockhart told Roy that “Harlow said some stuff to me,” according to the transcript.

Prosecutors are expected to play to the jury today the recorded conversation the four men had at the nude beach.

Also on Monday, testimony from two hotel representatives alleged Cuadra stayed at the Hilton Norfolk Airport, Norfolk, Va., hotel from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2007, and at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Norfolk from Feb. 2 to Feb. 10, 2007.

Crake said the hotels are minutes from Cuadra’s home.