Trial delayed for Bellaire lawyer accused in wife's murder-for-hire plot

The trial was delayed for Bellaire lawyer Jeffrey Stern, accused in his wife's murder-for-hire plot
April 11, 2012 4:29:44 PM PDT
Some new information has forced a judge to delay the trial of a Bellaire man accused of conspiring with his mistress to murder his wife. It's just the latest twist in a bizarre love triangle that has already led to one conviction and one mistrial.

Jeffrey Stern, now re-united with his wife Yvonne Stern, was scheduled to go on trial this week in a case that has attracted nationwide attention. But this new information centering around the prosecution's key witness, Stern's former mistress, could change the course of the trial.

The trial has been pushed back for three whole months so the defense can investigate allegations that Michelle Gaiser, Stern's former mistress, may have been involved in this kind of crime before.

Just days before Bellaire lawyer Jeffrey Stern was about to go on trial for allegedly trying to have his wife Yvonne Stern killed, the defense was granted a continuance to investigate allegations that Gaiser was involved in other murder-for-hire scheme, as well as attempting to poison a victim with bleach.

"It's not unusual that things develop and Judge Bradley did the right thing and is giving the parties time to get ready for trial. This is a very important case and if there's new issues that need to be developed, the parties need time to do that," said Paul Nugent, defense attorney for Jeffrey Stern.

Stern is charged with solicitation of capital murder for allegedly bankrolling and masterminding the three attempted hits on his wife's life, which she survived. Yvonne Stern is standing by her husband and believes he's innocent.

But KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy says Gaiser's alleged crimes could hurt Stern.

"They're going to think Stern had some role; you don't sleep with a hit person and not expect to use that person someday. It's just not a casual coincidence," said Androphy.

On the other hand, he says the jury may not believe Gaiser.

"Big time allegations showing she's a nasty person that doesn't care about human life is not going to help her on the stand; it does affect one's credibility," Androphy said.

Gaiser will testify against Jeffrey Stern in exchange for a sentence of no more than 25 years in prison. Her lawyer says she wanted the trial to start.

"We are disappointed, but we understand the judge's ruling. It's a very serious case," said James Stafford, attorney for Michelle Gaiser.

He insists that if these allegations against Gaiser were true that she would already have been charged.

"She has not been charged with anything else. And I don't anticipate that she is going to be charged with anything else," said Stafford.

There is no evidence that this new information was being withheld from the defense which would be illegal. The new evidence about Gaiser has been sealed and prosecutors cannot comment on the case.

Just one of the three alleged hitmen, Nhut Nguyen, has been convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison. The case against the second one ended in a hung jury, and the third alleged hitman has not gone to trial.

Damian Flores, one of the three alleged hitmen, will go on trial for the second time on May 7, after his first trial ended with a hung jury last year. Flores is charged with attempted capital murder for allegedly shooting Yvonne Stern while she sat in her car in the parking lot of her apartment building. Michelle Gaiser was the state's key witness in that case as well.

So Flores will go to trial before Jeffrey Stern. Stern's trial will begin on July 30, with jury selection scheduled for July 27.

The Stern's story was the subject of a 20/20 investigation that aired on April 6. You can watch the entire story by visiting ABCNews.com.

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