Prosecution to appeal sentence of man convicted in murder-for-hire scheme His time 'merged' into other charge


Howard County prosecutors say they will appeal the three-year prison sentence of a former Marine convicted in a murder-for-hire scheme that targeted a 17-year-old Columbia girl who accused him of rape.

James Alexander Page Jr. was sentenced yesterday by Howard Circuit Court Judge Raymond Kane Jr. for one count each of solicitation to commit murder and obstruction of justice.

"I respect Judge Kane," said Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha. "The state believes the law is contrary to what the court ruled."

Mr. Murtha said his office will file its appeal to the state Court of Special Appeals within 30 days.

Page, 27, of Greenbelt was convicted in June of offering $3,000 to a state police investigator who posed as a hit man in December 1992 while Page was being held in the county Detention Center awaiting trial for rape.

Page was found not guilty of the rape charges at a separate trial in March. He was convicted of one count of perverted sexual practices for performing a sex act with the girl and was given a suspended prison sentence.

Judge Kane gave Page a single sentence for the solicitation and obstruction charges, despite objections from Mr. Murtha, who wanted separate sentences for each count.

The judge explained that state law requires him to "merge" the charges because the act of soliciting the undercover investigator was an element of the obstruction charge.

Page was given the maximum sentence for obstructing justice, but could have received a life sentence for the solicitation charge.

The defendant, jailed since he was charged in December 1992, will be given credit for the time he has served.

Judge Kane said he gave the maximum sentence for the obstruction charge to make Page an example for others who consider interfering with the courts.

"The charges in this case, as I see it, are significant," he said. "The whole integrity of the criminal justice system is challenged when someone tries to solicit the murder of a complaining witness."

Mr. Murtha argued that Page should be given a severe sentence. He noted that Page had referred to himself as the "death maker" -- far from the "choir boy" described in a Public Defender's Office report that recommended he receive probation for the incident.

"Society needs to be protected from that person," Mr. Murtha told Judge Kane.

But Deputy Public Defender Louis Willemin said Page has already spent enough time in jail awaiting trial and sentencing. He suggested that Page be given probation and be required to conduct community service.

Page admitted to Judge Kane that his actions were wrong, but also said he was led into the murder-for-hire scheme by another inmate working as a police informant.

"I'm not the type of person who would come into the courtroom and try to dress everything up," said Page, whose enlistment expired while awaiting trial. "But I think I was somehow pulled along into it."

Mr. Willemin noted that his client was never in trouble with the law until the incident involving the girl, who was a senior at Wilde Lake High School.

Page, he said, felt he was abandoned after he was charged with rape and succumbed to the influence of the informant.

"He entered into a period of despair," Mr. Willemin said. "He even considered hanging himself. . . . He was at a very low point in his life."

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