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It was exasperation and fear — not murderous intent — that stockbroker Stuart Winkler was signaling when he told a fellow inmate to kill New York County Supreme Court Justice Leslie Crocker Snyder, his defense lawyer told a Manhattan jury Monday. Prosecutors, on the other hand, said that Winkler was not afraid of the inmate-turned-informant, but was in fact the architect of the scheme to murder the justice who was to preside over his stock fraud trial. In closing arguments before New York County Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman, the two lawyers presented starkly differing portraits of the stockbroker who is accused of arranging a plot to kill a supreme court justice. The main question for jurors to decide was whether Winkler was the master or servant of the jailhouse informant who was asked to kill Justice Snyder. Lead defense lawyer Jack Litman, of Litman Asche & Gioiella, said his client was the intimidated and manipulated servant of a thuggish jailhouse informant. Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Daniel McGillycuddy argued that the defendant was the master of the conspiracy, setting the terms of the planned murder, from its price to a code for aborting the mission. The main thrust of Litman’s 150-minute argument was that Winkler was the victim of entrapment, and a person with no predisposition to kill a judge. To reinforce his theory, Litman had to refute the impression created by tapes played at the trial, in which Winkler is heard discussing a plan to kill Snyder. The defense lawyer’s attack centered on the relationship between Winkler, a mild-mannered 48 year old, and the jailhouse informant, Carl Legan, a multiple armed robbery convict. Legan and Winkler, over several weeks, discussed plans to kill Snyder, who was viewed by the stockbroker as unlikely to reduce bail in his case. Legan was soon to be released from prison and communicated his willingness to fulfill Winkler’s wishes, for a price. Prosecutors say that soon after Winkler broached the idea of killing Snyder, Legan began to cooperate with law enforcement officials and to wear a wire. Litman said that Legan presented himself to Winkler as a “hitman” with no compunction about killing, and that the former stockbroker was intimidated by the convict’s tough-guy persona. Moreover, Legan established a pattern of intimidation and manipulation before the time he agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, Litman argued. “There’s a lot going on behind the curtain,” he said repeatedly to jurors, urging them to listen to the tapes with skepticism. Litman said that Winkler was being conditioned to fear Legan, so that the stockbroker could be manipulated into doing Legan’s bidding. “Stuart is going, ‘Right, right, right’ but he is thinking, ‘This is nuts,’ ” Litman said of one exchange on the tapes, where Legan allegedly proposed killing investors who were going to testify against Winkler in the stock fraud trial. On other occasions, Litman posited, Legan exhorted and subtly threatened Winkler into staying with the plot to kill Snyder. “Carl Legan knows he forced this guy into [the conspiracy], and he is afraid he’ll run away,” Litman argued. “When Stuart says on the tape ‘Do it,’ that is the true sound of entrapment, of exasperation, of his will being overborne,” Litman said. Litman also said that Legan often reminded Winkler that he would not likely see his family again or be able to participate in his own defense if Snyder remained on the case and refused to lower his bail. “When Carl Legan asks [Winkler] ‘What do you miss most? The little league?,’ that is manipulation,” Litman said. “That’s what entrapment is all about: the constant inducement, enticement, encouragement [of the defendant] and exploitation of [the defendant's] vulnerabilities by the government.” LOW-KEY APPROACH While Litman was often theatrical in his presentation, with his voice alternately a whisper, a full baritone, or high-pitched, the prosecutor McGillycuddy adopted a low-key, matter-of-fact style. The prosecutor called the entrapment defense “trumped-up,” and cited several instances where the tapes indicate that Winkler was ordering Legan around, and not vice versa. McGillycuddy said that on the tapes, Winkler details his own motive for wanting the death of Snyder, negotiates the price of $35,000 for Legan to do the deed, and exchanges information with the would-be assassin. Some of that information included the location of Winkler’s rural New Jersey home, McGillycuddy told the jurors, noting that would not be the action of a person who feared his fellow inmate. “You heard the defendant’s own words,” McGillycuddy said. “They undeniably refute that there was entrapment in this case.” McGillycuddy said that Winkler was “motivated by a desire to strike out at Justice Snyder,” and that he took the decisive role in the taped conversations with Legan. He noted that Winkler said, “I’ll decide” when Legan asked, “Is this what you want done?,” indicating the killing of Justice Snyder. Moreover, it was Winkler who finally set the price that he was willing to pay for the deed, and it was Winkler who developed a code phrase “Don’t buy Krispy Kreme” that he would say if he intended to abort the murder plot. The code was developed because at one point, Justice Snyder was considering whether to lower Winkler’s bail. Calling Winkler “the master” of the conspiracy, McGillycuddy said it was the stockbroker who ordered the convicted robber to “do it. Just don’t get caught.” Snyder was never in any danger from the plot, as Legan began to cooperate with the District Attorney before his release from prison. Winkler, who faces a possible 25-year sentence if he is convicted of conspiracy, is still awaiting trial on stock fraud charges. He was the chief financial officer of A.S. Goldmen, which has been accused by the Manhattan District Attorney of bilking $100 million from mostly elderly investors.

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