Daniel Teitelbaum’s fiancee wept quietly yesterday in a Franklin County courtroom when she heard that jurors had spared Teitelbaum’s life.
Afterward, she expressed relief that the jury recommended life in prison without parole and vowed that he will appeal his conviction and one day walk free.
“I know my fiance,” Joanne Weiss said, her face still reddened by tears. “It’s not in his character to ever hurt anyone. The same justice system he was believing in turned around and screwed him.”
In the county’s first death-penalty trial since 2012, the jurors said on their verdict forms that they had deadlocked on the question of whether Teitelbaum should be sentenced to death for the aggravated murder of his business partner, 54-year-old Paul Horn, during a burglary at Horn’s Grove City apartment. The jurors were required to reach a unanimous verdict.
After hearing a full day of testimony by character witnesses for Teitelbaum on Monday in the sentencing phase of the trial, the jurors deliberated for nearly 4 1/2 hours over two days before reaching the verdict of life without parole.
They also could have recommended a life sentence with parole eligibility after 30 years or a life sentence with parole eligibility after 25 years.
Horn’s sister and brother-in-law and his eldest stepdaughter and her husband were in court for the verdict but declined to comment afterward. They embraced Assistant Prosecutor Marla Farbacher and Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Solove.
Defense attorneys Adam Nemann and Lorie McCaughan released a statement saying they were “of course pleased that the jury found for life over death” and will support Teitelbaum “in any future endeavor in his effort to vindicate his name.”
Common Pleas Judge Charles A. Schneider will impose the sentence on Monday. He must follow the jury’s decision but could add as many as six years because a gun was used in the crimes, as many as 10 years for aggravated burglary and as many as three years for evidence-tampering.
A jury hasn’t recommended the death penalty in a Franklin County case since 2003.
The 47-year-old defendant didn’t react to the verdict, maintaining the same grim expression that he exhibited throughout the three-week trial that ended with his conviction on March 14.
Horn and Teitelbaum, of Margate City, N.J., owned the Platinum Player’s Club, a private poker club in Grove City, but their relationship soured in a dispute over the business.
Teitelbaum sued Horn in 2010, accusing him of fraud and misappropriation of funds. Horn was to give a deposition in that case on March 11, 2011 — the day his bullet-riddled body was found on his apartment floor.
Teitelbaum, who has a doctorate in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University, was described by family and friends as a brilliant man with exceptional skills in poker, chess and problem-solving. But he was unable to outsmart the Grove City Police Department, which was aided in its investigation by the FBI and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Data from a GPS device that Teitelbaum rented and kept in his car eventually allowed investigators to retrace his movements from his New Jersey home to a dead-end road behind Horn’s apartment complex on the night of the murder, then to the Scioto River Downtown, where they think he tossed the murder weapon.
The gun was never found, but prosecutors said evidence showed the gun used was the same type as one that an old college buddy of Teitelbaum’s had bought in Seattle and sent to him in December 2010. That friend, Colin Reedy of Bellingham, Wash., is serving a four-year federal sentence for making false statements about the gun.
Reedy testified at the trial that Teitelbaum had offered to pay him to kill Horn.
By John Futty - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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