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Cops and Courts

Bruce Arnoff seeks plea change in murder-for-hire plot

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    Bruce Arnoff, left, prays as Judge John Miraldi reads his sentence of mandatory life in prison. Arnoff is seeking to change his plea, alleging that his attorney, Ken Lieux, right, gave him ineffective counsel and colluded with the prosecutor and didn't act in his best interests.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — Bruce Arnoff has filed a motion in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, which, if granted, could cause him to face the death penalty in connection with the murder-for-hire plot that led to the killing of Willie Fisher in July.

Last month, Arnoff, 57, of Solon, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 33 years after pleading guilty to counts of complicity to aggravated murder, complicity to murder, complicity to felonious assault and tampering with evidence before Judge John Miraldi.

On Wednesday, Arnoff filed pro se motions — meaning he did so without an attorney — for withdrawal of his guilty plea, assignment of a new public defender and a change of venue for his case.

Police have said Arnoff paid John Sullivan, 30, and Patrick Gall, 19, both of East Cleveland, $500 total to kill Fisher, whose body was found behind a shopping plaza on East Avenue on July 6.

In the handwritten motion, Arnoff contends that he received ineffective counsel from his court-appointed attorney, Kenneth Lieux. Arnoff also alleges that Lieux “colluded with the prosecution against” Arnoff’s best interests and force him to plea.

Lieux said that part of the reason Arnoff pleaded guilty when he did was because the prosecutor’s office was considering going to the grand jury for a supplemental indictment for capital murder charges.

“There was a possibility that they could have indicted him for capital charges,” Lieux said. “That was a very distinct possibility. It factored into the decision, as well as the overall evidence of the case factored into his decision.”

By pleading guilty when he did, Arnoff prevented prosecutors from going forward with a capital murder indictment in which he could have been sentenced to death if convicted. If his motion to vacate the plea and sentence are granted, it would no longer be considered “double jeopardy.”

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office is going to oppose Arnoff’s motion to withdraw the plea.

However, if Miraldi were to grant the motion, Will said his office would go after the death penalty.

Miraldi has set a deadline of Jan. 28 for the prosecutor’s office to file a response to Arnoff’s motions.

Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 39 years after pleading guilty to counts of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence and having weapons while under disability. Prosecutors have said Sullivan was the one that pulled the trigger and shot Fisher.

Gall was found guilty by a jury in November after a weeklong trial on charges of aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence. Miraldi sentenced Gall to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 28 years.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.


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