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Prosecutors respond to Kerekes

Lawyers for defendant in Brian Kocis case want to know if their client is seen as principal killer.


WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County prosecutors say they don’t have to reveal whether they believe homicide suspect Joseph Kerekes was the principal killer of Bryan Kocis or just an accomplice.

And even if Kerekes was just an accomplice, they could still seek the death penalty for him if he helped commit the slaying, prosecutors say.

The prosecutors made the claims in court papers filed Tuesday in part of their ongoing pre-trial squabble with Kerekes’ attorneys.

Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra are charged with homicide in the Jan. 24, 2007, slaying of Kocis, a gay porn producer. Investigators claim the two Virginia men killed Kocis, their rival in the gay porn industry, inside his Dallas Township home and then set the house on fire.

Kocis, 44, was found dead by firefighters. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both suspects.

One of Kerekes’ attorneys, Mark Bufalino, had previously asked a judge to force prosecutors to reveal whether they believe Kerekes was the principal or accomplice.

Bufalino needs to know, he said, because he believes it is legal to only seek the death penalty for a principal killer.

If prosecutors do not believe Kerekes is the principal killer, Bufalino indicated he could ask that prosecutors be barred from seeking the death penalty for Kerekes.

Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Mike Melnick has said evidence in the case “fully suggests” both suspects could be principals in the case.

And in the court papers filed Tuesday by a team of prosecutors, they said they should not have to reveal who they believe is the principal killer and accomplice because “different inferences might reasonably be drawn from the evidence as to who nearly decapitated Mr. Kocis.”

It should be a jury’s job, the prosecutors said, to determine principal and accomplice.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. will decide after a Jan. 30 hearing.

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