Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Steamboat Springs Part-time Steamboat Springs resident Brooks Kellogg has asked for a change of plea in his murder-for-hire case, indicating an agreement has been reached that could prevent a trial.
Kellogg could plead guilty during a hearing at 2:30 p.m. today in federal court in Denver. Terms of the agreement also could be made public at today’s hearing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The change-of-plea request creates a sudden shift for the high-profile case that began with Kellogg’s Oct. 19 arrest at Denver International Airport on suspicion of trying to pay for the killing of Florida developer Stephen Bunyard.
Denver lawyers Larry Pozner and Dru Nielsen filed a notice of disposition Tuesday with U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello.
“That means a plea agreement has been reached between the defense and the government,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeffrey Dorschner wrote in an email Wednesday. “The details of that agreement will not be made public until after a change of plea hearing where Mr. Kellogg will be given an opportunity to change his plea to guilty.”
Kellogg pleaded not guilty in November to several felony charges stemming from the alleged plot. Hearing and trial dates repeatedly were pushed back during winter, and in February, the defense filed a motion for outright dismissal, alleging “outrageous governmental conduct” and accusing the FBI of unjustly targeting Kellogg, 72, who has no previous criminal history.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh has called the dismissal effort “devoid of factual allegations.”
Federal authorities say Kellogg met with an undercover agent at a DIA terminal and handed an agent, who was posing as a contract killer, $2,000 for expenses related to the killing.
But FBI special agent Kenneth Jackson of the bureau’s Glenwood Springs office testified in a November hearing that the FBI’s attempted recording of the conversation between Kellogg and the agent didn’t work.
Also at that hearing, Pozner questioned Jackson about instant messages exchanged via computer by Kellogg and Barbara Blackmore, a 47-year-old Clifton woman and a former Oak Creek resident. Jackson said Kellogg and Blackmore met online in 2007 or 2008 and began a relationship that included expensive gifts from Kellogg and, in the past year, conversations leading up to the proposed contract killing.
Pozner noted that a key thread of messages cited in Jackson’s affidavit was transmitted on a computer used by Blackmore but not obtained by the FBI.
Jackson said the FBI saw that thread of instant messages “only by the agent viewing the screen” in Blackmore’s presence, potentially raising questions about when and how the messages truly were sent.
Jackson’s affidavit, though, states that at the Oct. 19 meeting at DIA, the undercover agent said, “You’re the customer here,” and “You want him killed?” to which Kellogg replied, “yeah.”
Veteran Denver criminal defense lawyer H. Michael Steinberg is not involved in the Kellogg case but said Wednesday that the case’s circumstances could have created an uncertain trial outcome — for either side — that led to the plea agreement.
“Sometimes that’s a strong motivation to settle a case,” Steinberg said.
Kellogg, from Chicago, is the managing member of Chadwick Real Estate Group in Steamboat Springs and owns the Old Pilot Building, 1041 Lincoln Ave. He also owns a house overlooking Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club.
In June 2010, Bunyard’s First Land Development won a $2.38 million judgment against Chadwick Estates and Kellogg. The judgment could reach $2.5 million with interest.
Kellogg has been in custody in an Englewood detention center since the arrest. Judges have twice denied him bail.
He faces three counts of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and one count of travel with intent that murder be committed.
If Kellogg is convicted on all five counts, he could be sentenced to as much as $1.25 million in fines and, effectively, the rest of his life in prison.
Those conditions could change Thursday.