- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

A former Navy intelligence officer who has been jailed awaiting trial for 16 months on charges he killed his ex-wife will have to wait perhaps another six months after a federal judge in Alexandria denied him bail yesterday.
Attorneys for Jay Lentz argued that their client should be free on home detention because prosecutors are intentionally dragging their feet in the case.
"The government has been investigating this case since 1996," public defender Michael Lieberman said. "If they're not ready now, it's because they don't have a case."
Mr. Lentz was arrested in April 2001 at his Greenfield, Ind., home and charged with the 1996 murder of Doris Faye Lentz, 31. Prosecutors say Mr. Lentz lured her from her Arlington home across state lines to his home in Fort Washington and killed her.
The charges of interstate kidnapping make the crime a federal case, eligible for the death penalty. The U.S. Justice Department has decided to seek the death penalty if Mr. Lentz is convicted.
Mrs. Lentz has never been found, but her blood-soaked car was found in the District shortly after her disappearance.
The trial had been set to begin Sept. 16, and nearly 50 potential jurors had been identified and vetted. But prosecutors filed a last-minute appeal of pretrial rulings by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee that tossed out some of the government's evidence.
Among other things, Judge Lee ruled that prosecutors could not use witnesses who would have testified that according to Mrs. Lentz Mr. Lentz had compared himself to O.J. Simpson while threatening to kill her.
"The O.J. Simpson case has become a shorthand way to describe tragic domestic violence and the inflammatory inference of getting away with murder," Judge Lee wrote in a Sept. 3 ruling.
Mr. Lieberman said the government's case is significantly weaker as a result of Judge Lee's rulings.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mellin disputed that, saying the case is stronger because of the recent discovery of a tiny speck of Mr. Lentz's blood in Mrs. Lentz's car. Defense attorneys have questioned that evidence.
In addition, Mr. Mellin said, jailmates of Mr. Lentz are reporting that he has threatened to attack Mr. Mellin and lead FBI agent Brad Garrett.
Also, Mr. Lentz has never turned in his passport and could use his military training to evade capture if he decided to flee.
"He could go on the lam and we'd never see him again," Mr. Mellin said.
Attorneys for Mr. Lentz, who is being held at the Alexandria jail, had suggested he be placed in home detention at his mother's house in Bloomington, Ind., while awaiting trial.
But Judge Lee ruled that Mr. Lentz must remain in jail.
"While the court understands Mr. Lentz's frustration at the delay no combination of conditions can reasonably assure Mr. Lentz's appearance at trial," Judge Lee said.
It is not clear when the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will consider the government's appeal.
Defense attorneys have asked the court to hear the appeal on an expedited basis. An expedited appeal might take about six weeks; otherwise it could take several months.
If the case is not expedited, the trial could be delayed about six months, defense attorneys and the judge said.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide