Jury begins deliberating in trial of man accused of hiring hit man to kill witnesses
Munwar Toha charged with 4 counts of solicitation to commit murder
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The juror began deliberating the trial of a Coral Springs man accused of hiring a hit man to kill witnesses in his murder case.
Munwar Toha, 65, is facing four counts of solicitation to commit murder. Prosecutors say he wanted to kill four people who are going to testify against him when he stands trial for murdering his wife. Deliberations began about 2:30 p.m.
Toha reported his wife Surya missing in April of 2010 and made a tearful public plea for help to find her. Detectives later uncovered surveillance video which, they say, shows Toha driving his family car into a canal. His wife's body was discovered in the submerged vehicle.
In court Thursday, jurors heard audio recordings of Toha talking on the phone from the Broward County jail to an undercover detective who was posing at a hit man. According to the audio tapes, Toha said his fellow inmate, Fitzroy Salesman, was interested in the hit man's services. At the time, Salesman, the former Miramar City Commissioner, had just been convicted of federal bribery and extortion charges.
Toha told the detective that Salesman wanted the hit man to kill his federal prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Jeffery Kaplan.
Caller: "He wants to pay money for Kaplan, Kaplan, Jeffrey Kaplan."
Detective: "Right, right, right."
Caller: "And for some reason (unintelligible), he wants me to come to the table, he wants me to pay you."
Detective: "He wants you to pay me ?"
The detective told jurors he was alarmed by the request and started looking into Salesman. He listened to Salesman's phone calls from jail but never heard the former commissioner discuss killing Kaplan with anyone else. The detective said he never talked to Salesman himself and could not make a criminal case based solely on his conversation with Toha.
"I need evidence, I need their voices meet with somebody or talk on the phone. I need to do that," said detective Bill Walker. "They never got on the phone, I was never mailed any notes saying they wanted this done, so no charges were filed."
It's unclear if Kaplan was made aware of the charges or if any precautions were taken to ensure his safety. Salesman is serving four years in federal prison.
Oscar Izquierdo, a police informant, introduced Toha to the undercover detectives. Defense attorneys said that's entrapment and that Izquierdo set Toha up in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.
"The law says they have to prove that Mr. Toha was predisposed to commit he hook up with Oscar Izquierdo. And what is the evidence that the government has presented to you of that?" said defense attorney Martin Fine.
But prosecutors said the defense can't prove that allegation.
"You don't have to complete the act of actually paying them. You only have to ask them to do it," said prosecutor Tom Coleman. "There is no evidence of entrapment other than Mr. Fine's argument to you that you should believe that it's entrapment, imagine that is. There is no evidence of it."
If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Deliberations will continue on Friday morning.
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