Attorney plays Danton accomplice as victim
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Defense shows strategy after hearing for 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer.
By Jim Suhr ~ The Associated Press
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- An attorney for a college student accused with St. Louis Blues player Mike Danton in a murder-for-hire plot portrayed his client Monday as a naive young woman smitten with an athlete who ultimately manipulated her.
"We think Katie was a victim," Art Margulis told reporters after an hourlong hearing in federal court, where Katie Wolfmeyer is charged with Danton with arranging the would-be April slaying of Danton's agent, David Frost.
Danton, 23, and 19-year-old Wolfmeyer face identical murder-for-hire conspiracy charges, with Wolfmeyer accused to trying to hire a would-be killer. That man turned out to be an informant who instead went to authorities.
Frost was unharmed and has maintained he was not the intended target.
Danton and Wolfmeyer, from the St. Louis suburb Florissant, have pleaded innocent, and both are to be tried here in September.
In what may be a central theme during Wolfmeyer's trial, Margulis told reporters his client was "just a young girl taken by an athlete, a hockey star."
"I don't think there was any question she was taken advantage of; I think that's clear," Margulis said. "She was naive. There's no question she was manipulated."
Wolfmeyer -- free on $100,000 bond -- tearfully told reporters "I'm just going on with my life right now, trying to get through school" and working.
"I'm doing fine," she said, crying before Margulis portrayed her as "just an innocent go-along, an innocent bystander" in a case that could land her years in federal prison if convicted.
During the hearing, in which Wolfmeyer often sobbed at the defense table, Margulis pressed U.S. District Judge William Stiehl to bar as potential evidence certain statements Wolfmeyer allegedly made to the FBI in the hours after her April arrest.
Margulis also asked Stiehl to force federal prosecutors to publicly identify witnesses supposedly involved with Danton in two earlier possible murder-for-hire bids targeting Frost.
Wolfmeyer's attorneys say that though neither of those alleged cases involved Wolfmeyer, such information could be mitigating "and directly impacts her level of culpability" in the charges she faces.
Stiehl said he would rule on those matters later.
Danton has been jailed since his arrest April 16 in San Jose, Calif., a day after the San Jose Sharks eliminated the Blues from the playoffs.
Danton's attorney, Robert Haar, attended Monday's hearing as an observer, making no statements.