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Houston lawyer's ex-mistress given 20-year prison term in failed plot to murder lover's wife
HOUSTON (AP) ¯¯¯ A Houston attorney's mistress who had been accused of orchestrating at least three failed attempts to kill her lover's wife was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.
The attorney's wife and intended target of the murder-for-hire plot, Yvonne Stern, had asked that the plea deal be rejected, saying the sentence wasn't harsh enough. She also criticized the Harris County District Attorney's Office for offering the deal, calling the agreement "corrupt."
"It is clear that this monster is very unstable and she should spend the rest of her existence behind bars where she cannot attempt to kill anyone else," Stern said during Friday's brief court hearing.
The mistress, Michelle Gaiser, was to testify at attorney Jeffrey Stern's trial, which was to begin with jury selection Friday. But prosecutors earlier this week dropped the two counts of soliciting capital murder Stern faced, saying they did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial.
Stern, 55, admitted he had an affair with Gaiser, 39, but insisted he had no involvement in the homicide attempts. Yvonne Stern has said she forgave her husband for his infidelity and has been supporting him throughout the case, saying they had become victims of a "fatal attraction" situation.
Yvonne Stern was not injured in the first two attempts on her life. But in a May 2010 attempt, she was shot and wounded at the family home in Bellaire in southwest Houston. She survived a bullet wound to her stomach.
After the hearing, Yvonne Stern declined to speak to reporters. Her attorney, Chip Lewis, called the plea agreement "laughable" and accused District Attorney Pat Lykos of agreeing to the deal to appease Gaiser's defense attorney, James Stafford. Lewis described Stafford as a longtime political ally and friend of Lykos.
In a brief statement, prosecutor Kari Allen defended the agreement, saying Gaiser's cooperation led investigators to the man who shot Stern.
"With today's plea agreement, the Harris County District Attorney's Office has put a fourth person involved in attempts to murder Yvonne Stern behind bars," Allen said. "Combined, members of these conspiracies have been sentenced to a total of ninety-five years in prison."
Stafford denied claims his client was given special treatment by Lykos' office and said Gaiser should have received less than 20 years in prison because of the help she gave authorities. He said Gaiser accepted the plea agreement in order to move on.
"She is totally remorseful for what happened," he said.