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Wife who refused to testifyfaces contempt sentence


A Virginia woman who bucked a judge's order and refused to testify Friday in the murder trial of her husband will be sentenced for contempt of court tomorrow.

Howard Circuit Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. found the woman, Virginia Dorhan Hagez, 44, of Richmond, Va., in contempt after she refused to answer the prosecutor's questions on Friday.

Judge Sybert explained to Mrs. Hagez that she could face jail time for refusing to testify before the jury of seven women and five men.

"I'm telling you to answer [the prosecutor's] questions," the judge told Mrs. Hagez as she sat on the witness stand.

"I refuse to answer her questions," Mrs. Hagez responded, after Senior Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage asked her how long she had lived in Richmond.

Under state law, the contempt charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mrs. Hagez was released from the county detention center in lieu of 10 percent of a $25,000 bond Friday night. She had been jailed at the detention center in lieu of $150,000 bond since April 22 to ensure her appearance in court. Prosecutors had said they feared Mrs. Hagez would flee to avoid testifying.

She was called to testify in the trial of her husband, Adel George Hagez, a 45-year-old Richmond man accused of shooting Riad S. Hijas six times in Mrs. Hagez's Jessup hotel room on June 22, 1991. Police said Mr. Hijas, also of Richmond, was Mrs. Hagez's boyfriend and Mr. Hagez's cousin.

Mr. and Mrs. Hagez had been divorced for about three months at the time of the shooting. They were remarried at the detention center on April 30, four days before the trial started.

The trial resumes tomorrow with Richard O'Connor, an Ellicott City attorney for Mr. Hagez, presenting his case.

Ms. Gage said Mrs. Hagez may be called as a witness again during the prosecution's rebuttal of the defense case.

"I don't know what Mr. Hagez is going to say [if he testifies]," Ms. Gagesaid. "What if he takes the stand and says Mrs. Hagez shot [Mr. Hijas]?"

At Friday's proceedings, James Hanson, an Ellicott City lawyer for Mrs. Hagez, asked Judge Sybert to disqualify her from testifying because of her remarriage to Mr. Hagez.

Witnesses generally do not have to testify against their spouses.

Judge Sybert stood by his decision to require Mrs. Hagez to testify and ordered the woman to take the witness stand.

Mr. O'Connor objected to the court permitting Mrs. Hagez to take the stand -- knowing that she would not testify -- saying it would deprive his client of a fair trial.

Judge Sybert overruled the objection and ordered Mrs. Hagez to sit in the box before the jury.

Ms. Gage then began a series of 26 questions. After each one, Mrs. Hagez shook her head, and her attorney told the judge that Mrs. Hagez declined to answer.

Mrs. Hagez refused to acknowledge her March 1991 divorce decree and her new marriage certificate, so the prosecutor read the documents to the jury.

Ms. Gage then gave Mrs. Hagez a copy of a five-page police report detailing an interview she had with investigators on the night of the shooting. Mrs. Hagez glanced at the report, but did not study it.

The prosecutor asked her if she recalled telling investigators that she saw a man outside her hotel room with a gun. Mrs. Hagez shook her head, and her attorney said she refused to answer.

Mrs. Hagez also would not say if she knew Mr. Hijas. Ms. Gage presented her with a picture of a man lying on his back in a pool of blood, but Mrs. Hagez refused to say if she recognized him.

Mr. O'Connor, the defense attorney, did not question Mrs. Hagez.

The prosecution next called county police Detective Mark Miller to testify about the statement Mrs. Hagez gave to him and two other investigators after the shooting.

Ms. Gage attempted to have the typed report given to the jury to consider, but Mr. O'Connor objected, and Judge Sybert did not permit the report to be introduced as evidence. Discussions about the report were at the judge's bench and could not be heard by spectators.

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