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Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan Investigation » Blog Archive » Review Journal Reports: Titus seeks new judge

Review Journal Reports: Titus seeks new judge

Yet another story from Glenn at the Las Vegas Review Journal

Titus seeks new judge
Legal battle is defense tactic that could slow case

By Glenn Puit

Craig Titus is trying to get District Judge Jackie Glass kicked off his murder trial in a move that could slow down the prosecution of the nationally known bodybuilder.

In a court motion filed this week, Titus’ defense attorney, Marc Saggese, accused the judge of engaging in a prohibited conversation with a prosecutor and another attorney about an alleged murder-for-hire plot in Titus’ case.

In an affidavit filed Thursday, Glass said her actions were completely proper.

The prosecutor in question, Robert Daskas, said that long before his meeting with the judge, Titus was recorded by police in jailhouse phone calls talking about doing everything he could to prevent Glass from presiding over his murder trial.

“We will be able to conclusively demonstrate Craig Titus was willing to go to great lengths to get his case transferred to the courtroom of another district court judge, including, among other things, hiring Steve Wolfson, Judge Glass’ husband, (as Titus’ defense attorney) for the sole purpose of creating grounds for Judge Glass’ recusal,” Daskas said.

“He was considering this months in advance of any alleged improper meeting, and I will prove it through Craig Titus’ own words,” Daskas said.

The legal fight over Glass presiding as the judge in the case is an aggressive defense tactic by Saggese and Titus, a former Mr. Olympia competitor. Titus, 42, and his wife, fitness champion Kelly Ryan, 34, are charged with killing their personal assistant, Melissa James, in December 2005 at their southwest Las Vegas home.

According to authorities, the couple killed James, then burned her body in the trunk of Ryan’s Jaguar off state Route 160. Titus and Ryan initially lied to police about how James had ended up dead in Ryan’s car, but they later told police that James had overdosed at their house and they had panicked and burned the body.

A third defendant, Anthony Gross, is accused of helping the couple dispose of James’ body.

Complicating the case was the revelation in October that an acquaintance of Titus’, Nelson Brady Jr., was arrested on charges of trying to hire a hit man to kill three witnesses in the case, including Gross.

Authorities have voiced suspicions that Titus was behind the murder-for-hire plot, but he has not been charged.

According to police and court records, the allegations lodged by Titus against Glass are related to the murder-for-hire investigation. When authorities suspected that Titus was involved in the plot, they carried out an extensive investigation to try to prove it.

The police had Gross pose as a corpse in the trunk of a car, and they took photos of him. Police planned to send the photos to Titus with the hope that he would wire money to an account to pay for the hit man.

To make it appear as if Gross had really disappeared, the police cut an ankle bracelet that he was required to wear while on house arrest and flew him to Chicago.

Gross’ supervising house arrest officer, Sgt. Rick Hamilton, had not been told of the police ruse. He wrote Glass on June 22, telling her that he believed Gross had fled and that he was pursuing a warrant for his arrest.

On June 26, Daskas and an attorney for Gross, James Oronoz, met with Glass about the matter. According to a Las Vegas police report, “Glass was informed of the actual circumstances regarding Gross’ disappearance and his current location/status.”

In his court motion, Saggese said the meeting was improper and prejudiced his client. Under Nevada judicial rules, a judge cannot meet with one party of a case unless the other parties of that case are present.

Saggese said Titus’ and Ryan’s attorneys at the time were not invited to the meeting. Furthermore, he said, he suspects Glass was told that Titus might be involved in a plot to kill Gross.

A little more than a month later, Glass denied important legal motions for Titus and Ryan that sought to dismiss the charges against the couple. At the time, Glass did not mention her meeting with Daskas and Oronoz.

“Knowledge of that investigation couldn’t do anything but impact her neutrality,” Saggese said. “It’s only human.”

In his motion, Saggese seeks Glass’ removal from the case. It also seeks a chance to re-argue Titus’ and Ryan’s legal motions in front of another judge.

But in an affidavit filed Thursday, Glass said Saggese’s allegations aren’t accurate.

“I was not advised of the actual circumstances regarding Mr. Gross’ disappearance. … I was told by Mr. Daskas and Oronoz that Mr. Gross had not absconded and that I did not need to issue a warrant,” Glass said.

“I do not believe that I acted improperly, and I believe I can be fair and impartial,” Glass said.

Glass also said that she had not been served with the motion seeking her recusal, as is required by statute, and that she learned about it only when the Review-Journal called court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer to ask what Glass’ response was.

Sommermeyer said the motion to have Glass taken off the case will be heard by Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle.

In Saggese’s opinion, judicial rules make it clear that the meeting of the judge, the prosecutor and Gross’ attorney means that Glass cannot preside over the case. Saggese said he is prepared to litigate the matter to the Nevada Supreme Court, if necessary.

“This isn’t a discretionary recusal,” he said. “It’s mandatory.”

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