Danton pleads guilty in murder scheme

Saturday, July 17, 2004

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- Former St. Louis Blues player Mike Danton admitted in federal court Friday that he sought to have his agent killed as part of a plot that unraveled when the would-be hit man turned out to be a police informant.

Danton, who was to have been tried in September with co-defendant Katie Wolfmeyer and was scheduled for a pretrial hearing next week, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause a person to travel in interstate commerce to commit murder.

Sentencing was set for Oct. 22. Danton could face seven to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

"Obviously, this is what I think is a good result," said Stephen Clark, the case's lead federal prosecutor. "I think it's a fair deal."

Danton, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, spoke little during the hearing and hung his head occasionally when U.S. District Judge William Stiehl outlined the case against him. Danton replied "yes" or "no" to the judge's questions before declaring, "I plead guilty."

As part of the plea deal, the government dropped a related charge of making a telephone call in connection with a murder-for-hire plot.

Federal prosecutors also agreed to let Danton serve his possible prison time in his native Canada, though Stiehl cautioned Danton that the deal may bar him from re-entering the United States.

Danton, 23, and Wolfmeyer, a 19-year-old college student from the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Mo., had faced identical murder-for-hire conspiracy charges. Wolfmeyer, who has pleaded innocent, is accused of trying to hire the would-be killer of Danton's agent, David Frost.

The would-be killer -- identified by the government for the first time in court Friday as Justin Jones, a Columbia, Ill., police dispatcher -- notified authorities, and Frost was unharmed.

Clark said Danton promised to pay Jones $10,000 to kill Frost. Danton apparently said the person he wanted slain would be in Danton's suburban St. Louis apartment and that $3,000 would be left in an unlocked safe, Clark said.

Jones reported the plot, and authorities secretly taped many of the conversations Danton later had with Jones and Wolfmeyer.

In one such call, Clark said, Danton told Jones that somebody was coming from Canada to kill Danton and that Jones should make the killing look like a botched burglary.

In another conversation -- while Danton was with the Blues in California during the NHL playoffs -- Danton told Wolfmeyer, "I owe you guys so much," Clark said.

"Yeah, you do," Clark said Wolfmeyer replied.

Clark declined to say how Danton's guilty plea may affect the case against Wolfmeyer, scheduled for trial Sept. 1.

Wolfmeyer has been portrayed by her attorneys as a naive young woman simply smitten with an athlete who ultimately manipulated her. Donald Groshong, a Wolfmeyer attorney who attended Friday's hearing, said he hoped Danton's admission would lead the government to dismiss its case against Wolfmeyer.

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.

His contract was not renewed by the Blues, his attorney said Friday.

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