Danton remains in federal custody

Updated: April 24, 2004, 1:01 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues forward Mike Danton will plead not guilty to federal charges that he tried to hire a hit man to kill an acquaintance, his lawyer said Friday.

"The complaint tells a very bizarre, incomprehensible story that's inconsistent with what all of Mike Danton's teammates and those close to him know about him," attorney Bob Haar said. "We will be entering a plea of not guilty at the time of the arraignment."

Also Friday, ESPN's Jeremy Schaap and Gare Joyce learned of a former investigation of an incident involving Danton's brother and the reported target of the alleged murder plot.

Some media have identified David Frost, Danton's longtime agent, as the target, although Frost has said repeatedly that that's not the case.

ESPN has learned that Frost, who once pleaded guilty to assaulting a player on a team he was coaching, was investigated three years ago by the Ontario Provincial Police for an alleged incident involving Tom Jefferson. Jefferson is Danton's younger brother and a top prospect himself.

The alleged incident took place at a residence owned by Frost. Jeff Jefferson, uncle to both Tom Jefferson and Mike Danton, who changed his last name to Danton two years ago, confirmed that the investigation took place.

No charges stemming from the alleged incidents were ever filed against Frost. Repeated attempts by ESPN to reach Frost for comment were unsuccessful.

It is uncertain when Danton's arraignment will happen. The player, arrested in San Jose, Calif., a day after the San Jose Sharks beat the Blues to eliminate them from the NHL playoffs, remains in federal custody.

Haar said the U.S. Marshal's Service, partly for security reasons, does not disclose when a suspect will be moved.

"All we have gotten is very rough predictions from a couple of days to a couple of weeks," Haar said. "Unfortunately, it's not a process we have any influence over."

On Thursday, a federal prosecutor said Danton was being brought back to Illinois to face the charges.

Danton and an alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer, of the St. Louis suburb Florissant, were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to arrange a murder for hire and using a telephone across state lines to arrange it.

Wolfmeyer was freed Monday to the custody of her parents on $100,000 bond.

Federal authorities said that Danton, with Wolfmeyer's help, tried to hire a hit man for $10,000 to murder an unidentified acquaintance at Danton's suburban St. Louis apartment. Federal authorities said the men argued April 13 over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol." Danton allegedly feared the acquaintance would talk to Blues management and ruin Danton's career.

Wolfmeyer was accused of contacting the would-be hit man, who alerted the FBI.

Ronald Tenpas, the U.S. Attorney for Illinois' southern district, asserted that Wolfmeyer, who had a "personal relationship" with Danton, had ample time to reconsider her choice to help in the plot, but did not. She not only found someone who said he'd do the killing, she led the man to Danton's apartment building, Tenpas said.

Tenpas and other authorities refuse to identify the person Danton is accused of wanting dead. Media reports, citing unidentified sources, maintained the target was Frost.

Danton came to the Blues in a June trade from the New Jersey Devils, where he had been twice suspended for disciplinary reasons. This season, Danton -- serving as a fourth-line agitator -- had seven goals, 12 points and 141 penalty minutes, which tied him for most on the team.

Blues players released a statement Thursday in support of their teammate, saying they wanted to "tell everyone about the player and person we know. The media's portrayal of Mike has not been balanced and has not accurately reflected the character of the person we have spent the past 215-plus days with."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.