Reporting Charlie Langton
DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s yet another strange development in the already bizarre murder case of former Grosse Pointe Park businessman Bob Bashara and his handyman turned hitman.
Joseph Gentz, who said he was coerced into strangling Bashara’s wife Jane, was transported Wednesday to the Wayne County courthouse after telling a judge that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea to second-degree murder.
But, after a reprimand, he swiftly changed his mind and was returned to prison.
WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langon said Judge Vonda Evans wasn’t having any patience with Gentz in this, shouting, “This is not a game,” and that his behavior was wasting taxpayer dollars.
As it turned out, said Langton, the whole thing hadn’t been Gentz’s idea to begin with.
“In court today it was revealed that Joe Gentz found what was called a ‘jailhouse lawyer’ who manipulated Gentz into writing a letter to Judge Vonda Evans, asking him to withdraw his guilty plea,” Langton said.
“But when Gentz’s real lawyer, Susan Reed, explained that withdrawing his guilty plea would automatically reinstate first degree murder charges — for which Gentz could spend the rest of his life in prison — Gentz had second thoughts.”
Reed spoke with reporters following her client’s court appearance.
“Joe has been manipulated by people throughout, and this is just another example of someone trying to manipulate him,” Reed said. “And once we sat down and discussed it, he has confidence in his attorneys and he realized that any questions or concerns he has, he should bring them to us before listening to someone else — especially someone in jail.”
Gentz, 49, has admitted to killing Jane Bashara at her family home in 2012 at the behest of Bob Bashara — who he says paid him for the task and then forced him to go through with it.
Gentz is considered to be a key witness in the murder case against Bashara, who’s awaiting a hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial. In a plea deal with prosecutors, Gentz offered his testimony in any upcoming trial related to this case.
Gentz was sentenced in February to serve 17 to 28 years in prison. He was also charged with conspiracy but that charge was dropped as part of the deal.
The case has drawn national attention with tales that Bashara secretly ran a secret sex dungeon in the basement of one of his businesses and was known in chat rooms and at S&M parties as “Master Bob.”
Bashara’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19 in 36th District Court in Detroit.