Wolfmeyer said FBI twisted her story
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- A young Missouri woman was acquitted Monday of charges she helped former NHL player Mike Danton hire a hit man in a failed plot to kill his agent.
The federal jury deliberated more than three hours before clearing 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer in the scheme, which unraveled in April when the man recruited for the hit notified authorities.
Wolfmeyer's family and friends gasped, then applauded and gave Wolfmeyer the thumbs-up after hearing the verdict on charges of conspiracy and using a telephone across state lines to set up a murder. Wolfmeyer and her mother sobbed.
"I knew all along that I was innocent," the young woman said, reiterating her claim that the FBI had twisted her story and used it against her. "I'm glad the jury saw through all that."
Prosecutors, who had argued that jurors should look past Wolfmeyer's sobbing testimony and her claims the FBI was plotting against her, did not take questions after the verdict but released a statement.
"Our interest as prosecutors at any trial is to ensure the evidence is fairly and effectively put before the jury," said Ron Tenpas, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. "We respect the jury's verdict."
Prosecutors said that Wolfmeyer, of the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, put Danton in touch with acquaintance Justin Levi Jones, and the hockey player offered him $10,000 to kill Danton's agent, David Frost. Jones, a police dispatcher in Columbia, Ill., pretended to accept Danton's offer but instead notified the FBI.
Authorities said Danton and Frost had argued over Danton's alleged promiscuity and alcohol use. Danton, fearing Frost would tell the St. Louis Blues' front office about his behavior, decided to have Frost killed, authorities said.
Danton pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in July and will be sentenced Oct. 22. He did not testify during Wolfmeyer's trial.
Wolfmeyer testified last week she knew nothing about Danton's bid to have someone killed. "Danton didn't tell me anything," she testified. "I knew nothing. I knew absolutely nothing."
Prosecutor Stephen Clark, however, portrayed Wolfmeyer as a conniving liar and told the jury: "This is no conspiracy against Little Miss Muffet."
He said Wolfmeyer tried to make herself look demure by wearing a ponytail and a purple hair ribbon and having a little cartoon-covered tissue box at the defense table.
Juror Jean Anderson said Wolfmeyer is "not innocent by any means of everything she's done, but [prosecutors] didn't present evidence to prove she was guilty."
Another juror, Allen Trowbridge, said he thought "there was a little bit of lying going on on both sides."
Wolfmeyer would have faced at least eight years in prison had she been convicted. Her father, Patrick, said she had rejected a plea bargain in which she would have received a two-year sentence.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press