Saying that John Katehis “savagely murdered George Weber,” a Brooklyn prosecutor asked a jury to find Katehis guilty of second-degree murder in the 2009 homicide.
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is the demeanor of a cold-blooded killer,” said Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, the assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case, during November 14 closing arguments.
Katehis, who was 16 when he stabbed Weber 50 times, placed an ad on Craigslist in March of 2009 offering oral sex for money. The two men corresponded via email over several days, with Weber, 47, seeking to be tied up and smothered, an act that Katehis agreed to. The two met in Weber’s Carroll Gardens apartment after Katehis traveled there from his parents’ home in Queens.
“He was not lured to George Weber’s apartment,” Nicolazzi said. “He placed the ad, he took the train.”
That Katehis was younger than 17, New York’s age of consent, has complicated the case for the prosecution as some jurors may be offended by Weber’s arranging for sex with an underage youth.
Nicolazzi directed the jurors to actions that Katehis took to hide his crime that showed “consciousness of guilt” and to his affect in his videotaped statement to police.
“He was mature,” she said. “He was cold, he was calculating.”
Katehis’ first trial ended in a hung jury, with 11 jurors voting to convict him and one holding out for acquittal. Jurors in the first trial had a single second-degree murder count to consider. In the current trial, the defense and prosecution agreed to add a first-degree manslaughter charge for the jury to weigh.
Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life, while the manslaughter charge has a maximum sentence of up to 25 years, with the requirement that the defendant serve six-sevenths of the sentence before being eligible for release.
Nicolazzi told the jury that if they believed that Katehis intended to kill Weber, they had to convict the now 19-year-old on second-degree murder and they could not register their disapproval of Weber’s actions by settling for manslaughter.
“This is not a case for compromise,” she said. “To do that by way of your verdict would be wrong.”
Since the only person who knows everything that transpired in Weber’s apartment that night is Katehis and both sides have said that his statements to police are a mix of truth and falsehood, the prosecution could only make inferences as to what motivated Katehis.
“Was it pre-planned... and the defendant was carrying out some sort of sick fantasy he had?” Nicolazzi said. “Was it his own loathing about his own sexuality? Maybe.”
The defense continued to argue that Weber was a “pedophile” and that Katehis stabbed him in a panic when Weber asked him to do something that made him “uncomfortable.”
In his statements to police, Katehis said Weber gave him alcohol and cocaine when he arrived at the apartment and the drugs made him feel “jumpy.” Tests on blood drawn from Katehis within hours of the attack found no controlled substances or measurable amounts of alcohol, nor was any cocaine found in Weber’s apartment.
After he bound Weber’s feet with duct tape, Katehis said, Weber displayed a knife and he panicked. The two struggled over the knife, and Katehis said he accidentally stabbed Weber once in the throat. Katehis had a knife collection and was known to regularly carry knives.
Jay Cohen, Katehis’ attorney, said police and prosecutors avoided asking certain questions, such as what did Weber ask Katehis to do that made him uncomfortable, because the answers might hurt the case.
“What’s the problem?” Cohen said during his closing statement. “You going to get an answer you don’t like? It’s going to affect the prosecution?”
While the brutality of the killing is apparent, what is not clear is exactly what transpired between the two men. There were bite marks and some semen on Weber’s penis. That suggests that Katehis did perform oral sex on Weber.
“He bit him and George Weber reacted,” Cohen said. “If George Weber introduced a knife and swung at him, then George Weber got what he deserved.”