- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

YORK, Pa. (AP) - A central Pennsylvania man has been acquitted of charges that he tried to hire someone to kill a male acquaintance of his wife.

Jurors in York County deliberated for about two hours Wednesday before acquitting Gregory Allen Hess, 47, of Seven Valleys of solicitation of criminal homicide and criminal use of a communication facility.

Prosecutors alleged that Hess paid a man $30,000 to commit the slaying - but the man called authorities and the target helped stage photos in a ruse to convince Hess the killing had happened.

Hess testified last week that he wanted the man beaten up, not killed, and didn’t even know about the murder-for-hire charge until after he was arrested at a restaurant where authorities allege he handed over $1,900 to the informant.

“I didn’t want any permanent damage,” he said. “Just give him a warning for messing with a married woman.”

Hess testified that he hoped to work things out with his wife and keep the family together. He said he offered the informant $1,000 to beat up the acquaintance - $500 down and $500 at completion - but later offered an additional $1,000 if the beating was completed by a certain date because several days had passed with no action.

Defense attorney Farley Holt asked jurors in his closing argument to question the credibility of the purported hit-man, and he criticized the police investigation into the case.

Prosecutor Tim Barker, however, cited a comment recorded by state troopers in which Hess said his children “sorta knew I was going to take this guy out.” Barker said in his closing argument that “taken out” meant only one thing - murdered.

Hess faces separate charges that he tried to arrange the killing of the man hired for the slaying and then the killing of the second prospective hit-man.

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