Annapolitan given 6 years in murder-for-hire plot McCown, friend paid undercover trooper


An Annapolis man was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot in which he and another man hired an undercover state trooper to kill the former husband of the second man's wife.

Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme, Jr., ordered the sentence for James Allen McCown, 39, of the 1600 block of Crownsville Road.

McCown was convicted in June of solicitation to commit murder along with Nicholas Emilio Toro, 38, of the 1100 block of Primrose Court. They hired an undercover state trooper last September to kill Johnny Richard Messick of Melbourne, Fla., the former husband of Toro's wife.

McCown and Toro hatched the plot because Mr. Messick allegedly was harassing Mrs. Toro. McCown got involved because of his friendship for Toro.

McCown first met the trooper on Sept. 11, 1991, in a park on Arundel on Bay Road in Annapolis to arrange the slaying, court records show. McCown gave the trooper $100 as a partial down payment to travel to Melbourne, Fla., beat Mr. Messick until he was paralyzed and cut his tongue out.

McCown gave the trooper photographs of Mr. Messick and written directions. McCown also told the trooper that his friend "Nick" was in on the scheme.

The next day, the trooper met with both McCown and Toro in the parking lot of St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Annapolis. McCown and Toro told the trooper that they wanted Mr. Messick killed rather than injured. They also gave the trooper $400 and promised to give him $2,500 when the job was done.

Soon after the meeting, the trooper left for Florida, where he met with Mr. Messick, who told the trooper that he was involved in a bitter custody battle with his former wife. He also said he had received death threats.

The trooper photographed Mr. Messick to make it look as if he had been killed, then took his Social Security card and returned to Maryland.

He met McCown and Toro on Sept. 16 on the St. Martin's parking lot and showed them the pictures and the Social Security card. Toro confirmed that it was Mr. Messick's. The two were arrested after they handed the trooper $2,500.

Joel L. Katz, McCown's attorney, said that his client became involved in the plot because of his love for Toro's family. McCown had no family ties and the Toros accepted him into their lives, he said. "And he feels, for the first time in God knows how long, a part of family life," Mr. Katz added.

McCown did not want to kill Mr. Messick, Mr. Katz asserted. "He didn't want to kill the guy. But he wanted to teach him a physical lesson."

Mr. Katz asked that McCown, who had been working for the state as an air conditioning and heating maintenance worker, be allowed to serve his sentence through work release or house arrest.

McCown also asked that he be allowed to keep working. "I know I was wrong," he told Judge Thieme. "I had a good job. I would like to continue working."

Judge Thieme did not grant the work release, sentencing McCown without comment to 12 years in prison, suspending six years. He was also sentenced to five years probation upon release.

Toro will be sentenced Aug. 28.

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