Man convicted in murder-for-hire plot seeks new trial at hearing

His prosecutorial misconduct allegation was issue in 2010 campaign

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: November 9, 2011, 9:07 PM

 
photoDino Constance

A hearing for convicted felon Dino Constance began Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court.

In 2008, a jury convicted Constance, 52, of trying to solicit four men to kill or assault his ex-wife. He was sentenced to 53 years in prison. The reason for the lengthy sentence was that the four solicitations were counted as separate acts, as they occurred at different times and involved different people.

His conviction was upheld by the state Court of Appeals; the state Supreme Court declined review.

One of Constance’s persistent allegations has been that Prosecutor Tony Golik, who handled Constance’s case as a deputy prosecutor in the office’s major crimes unit, withheld evidence from Brian Walker, who was Constance’s trial attorney. Constance also alleges that Walker did not provide adequate representation.

Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis granted a hearing based on an argument from Constance’s attorney, Neil Fox of Seattle, that there’s new evidence that was not heard by the Court of Appeals.

Constance, who was transferred from Clallam Bay Corrections Center to the Clark County Jail to attend the hearing, wants a new trial.

The case was brought up last year during Golik’s successful bid to replace Art Curtis.

Republican Brent Boger, a Vancouver senior assistant city attorney, challenged Golik, a Democrat. Less than a month before the election, the Republican Party sent out a press release alleging prosecutorial misconduct against Golik. The claims were based on Constance’s case.

Golik said at the time that it’s very common for a defendant to make a claim against a prosecutor when appealing a case.

On Wednesday, the hearing got off to a slow start.

One defense witness didn’t show up, Walker couldn’t testify because he was in trial and the one witness who was available didn’t make it through his testimony because he told Judge Lewis that he was ill.

Lewis excused the witness, Ricci Castellanos, a former cellmate of Constance’s.

In 2007, prosecutors received a warrant for Castellanos to record Constance in the Clark County Jail.

During the 2008 trial, Golik played a recording for jurors of Constance giving explicit instructions to Castellanos, one of the four men he propositioned to kill or assault Jean A. Koncos.

Castellanos met Constance when Constance was incarcerated for failing to comply with court orders in a custody dispute. Castellanos, who has convictions for theft and forgery, then reported to custody officers that Constance wanted his wife dead.

In exchange for his work as an informant, Golik helped keep Castellanos out of jail so he would not have to be incarcerated with Constance. Golik said Wednesday that Walker, Constance’s trial attorney, knew what the prosecutor’s office did for Castellanos in exchange for testimony, but Fox suggested that the prosecutor’s office might have done additional favors for Castellanos.

Castellanos is expected to resume testifying Thursday.

On Wednesday afternoon Fox called Ron Miller, a private investigator appointed to assist Walker in preparing for trial.

Miller said court-appointed investigators are paid $40 an hour and typically get 10 hours; attorneys can request additional time. For Constance’s case, Miller was allowed to work approximately 42 hours.

Fox questioned Miller about why he did or didn’t do this or that. Miller said he did what he could with his allotted time and followed Walker’s orders.

Even before he was arrested in 2007 on headline-making murder-for-hire charges, Constance, a former loan officer, and his ex-wife were familiar faces at the Clark County Courthouse because of a nasty divorce.

They met through an online dating service in July 2003 and had a son a year later, married in December 2004 and filed for divorce in March 2005. The four-month marriage ended in multiple restraining orders against each other, accusations on both sides of domestic violence and a seven-volume divorce file.

A father and his son who lived with Constance were two of the other would-be hit men; they testified in 2008 that Constance was not bluffing when he offered $5,000 to “beat the (expletive) out of (Koncos)” and another $5,000 “if she happens to die.”

The fourth would-be hit man was another former inmate.

The hearing continues Thursday, but will likely have to be finished at a later date to accommodate everyone’s schedules.