Bodybuilder who pleaded guilty in killing of assistant wants sentence reduced

Former champion bodybuilder and convicted killer Craig Titus is seeking to knock off about four years from his prison sentence.

If he can’t get that, he’s asking the court to throw out his guilty plea and allow him to go to trial.

His attorney, Marc Saggese, claims District Judge Jackie Glass said that Titus would be eligible for parole after serving 17 years in prison for killing his personal assistant, Melissa James.

Instead, Glass sentenced Titus to 21 years in prison during a sentencing hearing on Aug. 22.

"In defendant Titus’ mind, the fact that he would receive seventeen years was written in stone," Saggese wrote in a court document. "Judge Glass had made that assurance to Counsel as a matter of fact."

Saggese is scheduled to argue the matter before Glass on Tuesday.

In court papers, Saggese said he was negotiating with county prosecutors Robert Daskas and Josh Tomsheck outside Glass’ courtroom on May 30, the last business day before the June 2 trial was set to start.

The parties couldn’t agree on what sentence Titus would receive if he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree arson.

Saggese was asking for a minimum of 15 years while prosecutors wanted 17, according to a court document.

About 4:30 p.m., Judge Glass told Saggese and the prosecutors that time was running out, the document states. The District Court’s Jury Services needed to be notified by 4:45 p.m. that day whether the trial was going forward.

When Glass learned the sticking point in the negotiation was whether Titus would get 15 years or 17 years, she told them, "He’s getting seventeen," the document states.

Saggese stated that Glass repeated this twice. He said he relied on her statement when he brought the agreement to Titus. Titus, he stated, wouldn’t have entered into a guilty plea if he wasn’t promised 17 years.

Judges can give whatever sentence they deem appropriate and are not bound by plea agreements.

Prosecutors declined to comment and judges do not discuss cases publicly that are before them. Saggese couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Saggese raised this issue when Glass sentenced Titus and his co-defendant, Kelly Ryan, on Aug. 22. After Glass sentenced Titus to 21 years to 55 years, Saggese said in court that he believed she would sentence Titus to 17 years to 55 years.

Glass at the time told him she didn’t agree with Saggese’s recollection of the agreement.

Titus and Ryan, his wife, were accused of beating, shocking with a Taser and killing 28-year-old James. James’ torched body, wrapped in duct tape, was found in a burned-out Jaguar in the desert in 2005. Titus said at his August sentencing hearing that he accidentally killed James during a drug-fueled fight.

Ryan in May pleaded guilty to arson and battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm. Glass sentenced her to six years to 26 years behind bars.

The couple, both body-builders, were famous among fitness enthusiasts. Titus is a former Mr. Olympia competitor while Ryan is a Ms. Olympia runner-up.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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