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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal jury has unanimously convicted a former Coeur d'Alene-area developer of crafting a murder-for-hire scheme to kill a prosecutor and key witnesses in a North Idaho drug case.
Kelly J. Polatis was found guilty Wednesday of 14 combined counts of witness tampering and using interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire. The jury acquitted Polatis of three charges. Defense attorney Lawrence Leigh says he'll appeal.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups will sentence Polatis on Sept. 30. He faces more than 130 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Polatis attempted to hire an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man to kill five people who spoke to authorities about his involvement in a marijuana growing operation in Coeur d'Alene. Polatis was acquitted of the drug charges in 2010 and arrested on the murder-for-hire charges the same day.
A federal jury in Salt Lake City on Wednesday continued to deliberate the fate of a former North Idaho developer accused of plotting to kill several witnesses and a federal prosecutor connected to a drug case filed against him in Idaho.
Jurors began their second day of deliberations in the murder-for-hire case of 41-year-old Kelly J. Polatis, following a 7-day trial and closing arguments in the case, which wrapped up Tuesday.
Trial for a man accused of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and witnesses in a North Idaho marijuana case is set for July.
Pre-trial motions in the case of Kelly J. Polatis are due by June 1 with jury selection set to begin July 11, a federal judge in Utah ruled last week.
Polatis has been in federal custody in Utah since April 2010, just after a North Idaho federal jury acquitted him of drug charges related to a mairjuana grow operation in Post Falls.
Before his acquittal, prosecutors say Polatis tried to kill his co-defendants by hiring a man who turned out to be an undercover FBI agents.
A judge recently rejected a request by his lawyers to dismiss the murder-for-hire charges for outrageous government misconduct. The defense alleged the FBI agents led Polatis on when he was drunk, and also alleged prosecutors were vindictive when they filed the case right after Polatis was acquitted on the marijuana charges.
According to court documents, Polatis met with FBI Agent Greg Rogers, who was posing as a hitman, on May 13, 2009, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, where they gambled, ate lunch and discussed a murder-for-hire proposal. Rogers told Polatis he would need a $15,000 down payment, and Polatis said that was fine.
Two days later, Polatis called Rogers and said he wanted to hire him"to cut off the finger of a man he believed had been cheating with his common-law wife," accoridng to court documents. "Polatis also indicted that having Agent Rogers commit that act would give Polatis absolutely confidence in Roger in connection with the murder-for-hire."
Prosecutors say Rogers knew the name of one of Polatis' intended victims before the meeting but not others.
"…Agents were unaware of the identities of those victims until Polatis actually met with Agent Rogers," according to court documents. "Agents were also completely surprised when Polatis raised the issue with Agents Rogers of killing Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Cook."
Polatis is represented by Lawrence Leigh of Slat Lake City and Gabriel Grasso of Las Vegas, who was part of former football great O.J. Simpson's defense team in 2008. They say Polatis was set up by the FBI, and that Rogers badgered him into discussing the plot while intoxicated.
Polatis is a former partner with Kirk-Hughes Development, LLC, which fought Kootenai County’s rejection of its proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development. The firm's lawyer appeared in court with him when he was first arrested.
A Post Falls couple targeted in what federal agents describe as a murder plot by a former developer received probation this week for a 2008 marijuana bust.
Charles Hatridge, 49, was ordered to serve one month in federal prison in addition to four years probation.
His wife, Karrie Hatridge, 48, received no prison time and three years probation. The Hatridges, who had no previous criminal records, also will forfeit $50,000 to the federal government.
Lawyers for the couple requested probation in lieu of standard prison stences in part because the two accepted responsibility and were minimal participants.U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced the Hatridges on Monday.
The Hatridges were main witnesses in the case against Kelly J. Polatis, a businessman acquitted of a marijuana distribution charge by a federal jury last month.
Shortly after Polatis’ acquittal, he was indicted on a charge of using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire and tampering with a witness. He’s also suspected of plotting to kill an assistant U.S. attorney working the case.
New court documents say the Hatridges live in fear of Polatis and have taken extra precaution “in living arrangements, travel and association, believing (and we submit knowing) that Mr. Polatis had the ability to punish or seek retribution…,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed May 6. “..From the outset, Mr. Hatridge was fully aware and fully concerned about the dangerousness of Mr. Polatis and expressed his concern over his personal safety to debriefers on more than one occasion.”
Polatis, 40, (left) recently was transferred from the Bonner County Jail to Utah, where he was arraigned Friday, according to federal court records. He’s represented by noted Las Vegas litigator Gavin Grasso, whose past clients include reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson.
Polatis and the Hatridges were arrested November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, owners of American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum.
The Hatridges pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana in August 2009. They told jurors last month that Polatis was the mastermind of the grow operation and approached them about using their rental properties after learning that Charles Hatridge “had limited hydroponic growing experience” and was growing tomato plants at his mortgage office, according to a court documents.
The couple, married since 1981, started the mortgage company in 2006, two years after they moved to Idaho.
They now own Highlands Upholstery, which opened in December 2008, and have returned to their religious roots as Jehovah’s Witnesses, documents say.
A Las Vegas developer acquitted by a federal jury in a North Idaho marijuana distribution case remains jailed without bail, now accused of conspiring to kill the prosecution’s key witnesses, including a Post Falls couple who testified against him.
Kelly J. Polatis, (left) who worked with the company still fighting Kootenai County’s rejection of the proposed Chateau de Loire lakeside development, waived extradition Wednesday to Utah, where he’s been charged in U.S. District Court with using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire.
He’s also suspected of plotting to kill a federal prosecutor in an investigation his lawyer says was triggered by a nanny whose son was a government informant.
On Thursday, Chataeu marketing director Melody Jones said Polatis is long removed from the project.
“When we all saw what kind of person he was we got rid of him,” Jones said.
Polatis, 40, was arrested with Karrie Hatridge (right), Charlie Hatridge (left) and Ryan C. Jackson in November 2008 after Idaho State Police seized hundreds of marijuana plants from a Post Falls home owned by the Hatridges, who operated American Mortgage Solutions in Rathdrum.
A fourth defendant, Ryan C. Jackson, pleaded guilty last summer to misprision of a felony and is on three years probation.
Jackson (right), whose brother is a Kootenai County sheriff’s deputy, tended to the marijuana for two weeks “receiving neither money nor money in return,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer. “His main offense was one of not reporting the criminal activity to the authorities,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer last summer.
Polatis was charged in the murder plot through a sealed complaint filed on Friday, the same day a federal jury acquitted him of marijuana charges that carried a five-year minimum prison term.
His defense lawyer, noted Las Vegas litigator Gabriel Grasso, is suspicious over the timing of the new charges.
“That might tell you something: They don’t like to lose,” said Grasso, whose past clients have included reputed gangsters and former football great O.J. Simpson. “It’s a humbling thing to be faced with the might of the federal government and actually come out on top. Defense attorneys call it ‘walking on the moon.’”
Read the rest of my story: Developer accused of murder plot