NEW YORK (AP/WCBS 880) — A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the murder trial of a teenager accused of stabbing a radio newsman he met through Craigslist.
It was the third day of deliberations at the trial of John Katehis, 18, who could have faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted of killing George Weber.
State Supreme Court Justice Neil Jon Firetog briefly reconsidered his mistrial decision, over lawyers’ strenuous objections, when deadlocked jurors said they wanted a few more hours to consider the fate of John Katehis, 18. But he ultimately allowed the decision to stand.
Weber had been working as a freelancer for ABC News Radio. He also had worked at WABC in New York, and at stations in California, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
Police discovered his body in March 2009 on the bedroom floor of his Brooklyn apartment after the station he’d been freelancing for called them. He’d been stabbed about 50 times, and his pants and underwear were at his ankles, which were bound with duct tape, according to investigators and an autopsy. His blood-alcohol level was 0.12, toxicology reports showed.
During deliberations, jurors sent the judge notes asking to see crime scene photos of Weber’s apartment again. They also wanted the transcript of testimony from one of the officers who found Weber’s body read to them as well as explanations of second-degree murder and reasonable doubt.
During the trial, which began Oct. 18, prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi described Katehis as a “mature” and “cold, calculating, savvy killer” who at 16 placed an advertisement on Craigslist offering sex for money.
Weber, who had a fetish for being smothered to the point of nearly passing out, responded to that ad, the prosecutor said.
For reasons that Nicolazzi said may never be clear, Katehis went on a “stabbing frenzy,” she said.
Katehis then fled, taking the weapon with him, and tried to avoid arrest, she said.
Police later arrested Katehis in Middletown, N.Y. with his father’s help.
Katehis’ lawyer had argued that Weber preyed on an underage money-desperate boy; Katehis was 16 at the time.
Weber lured Katehis to his apartment and gave the teen alcohol and a mysterious powdery substance to snort, Schwartz had argued. The substance later tested negative for narcotic drugs, Nicolazzi said, adding that she doubted Weber gave it Katehis to ingest.
Weber then pressured Katehis “to do things that made him uncomfortable” in exchange for $60, Schwartz said during the trial.
Weber was stabbed as Katehis, “jumpy and paranoid” from the alcohol and powder, defended himself during a struggle over a knife Weber pulled out during the encounter, Schwartz repeatedly told jurors.
Schwartz also criticized detectives who arrested and interviewed him, saying they took advantage of his youth. One detective wrote Katehis’ statement because of cuts on Katehis’ hand sustained during the killing, detective James Normile testified.
Katehis asked the detective to add the word “accidentally” before the word “stabbed” in the statement, Normile said. Schwartz said police had intentionally left the word out of the statement.
Nicolazzi showed jurors the Craigslist ad she said Katehis posted as well as e-mail exchanges between him and Weber. The exchanges, Nicolazzi told jurors, showed Katehis’ comfort with having sex with older men for money.
She also showed pictures Katehis had posted online of himself holding knives to demonstrate what she said was an “interest” in them.
Although investigators never recovered the knife used in the killing, the medical examiner testified that Weber’s wounds “could be consistent” with at least one of the knives shown in the pictures. Katehis’ lawyer said he didn’t have a knife when he went to Weber’s home because he had come from school.
The cuts Katehis suffered on his right hand, which required stitches, were the result of his “stabbing frenzy,” the prosecutor said.
Katehis’ father, in collaboration with police, called his son after the killing and told him he wanted to give him $300, Normile testified. Police arrested him at the meeting.
Katehis, who sometimes dozed during the trial and deliberations, said he works the overnight shift – 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – as a waiter at Manhattan restaurant.
“It’s been difficult going back and forth,” he said near the end of the trial.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)