- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) — A federal appeals court yesterday said that Jay E. Lentz should be kept in custody while prosecutors appeal a judge’s decision to overturn his capital-kidnapping conviction.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond voted 2-1 to grant prosecutors’ request for a stay of U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s order overturning Mr. Lentz’s conviction on kidnapping resulting in the death of his ex-wife. Without the stay, Mr. Lentz could have been released on bond yesterday.

The appeals court’s order did not state any reasons for the decision.

Judges William B. Traxler Jr. and Robert B. King voted to grant the motion. Judge M. Blane Michael dissented, saying that he would have preferred a full review of Judge Lee’s decision.

Mr. Lentz, 44, has been jailed since his arrest 27 months ago.

Doris Lentz, 31, vanished in April 1996. Her body has never been found, though her bloodstained car turned up in the District.

Prosecutors contend Mr. Lentz lured her from her Arlington home to his Fort Washington home on the pretext of picking up their daughter, Julia.

Judge Lee ruled July 22 that prosecutors never proved an essential legal element of their case, that Mr. Lentz held his ex-wife against her will.

A spokeswoman said the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, would not comment on yesterday’s ruling.

Mr. Lentz’s attorneys did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment.

In a telephone interview from jail, Mr. Lentz told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by prosecutors.

“This is a big frame job,” he said.

Mr. Lentz disputed prosecutors’ portrayal of him as a former spy who was fighting a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife. The former naval intelligence officer said he was merely an analyst who read reports. “I was like a loan officer at a bank,” he said.

As for the custody dispute, he said, “There were no problems with custody. We had joint custody. I had [our daughter] 130 days a year, every Wednesday and every other weekend.”

Mr. Lentz told the newspaper he believes his ex-wife might have been the victim of a carjacking.

“I hope they find her,” he said.

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