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Jail informant, ATF agent testify about Mark Leonard attempting to set up ‘hit’ on witness

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (July 2, 2015)-- Before the first witness was called to the stand Thursday, Mark Leonard's defense called for a mistrial.

Live blog: Go inside the courtroom with CBS4.

Leonard is the alleged mastermind behind the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion--an event that killed two people, flattened dozens of homes and cost millions in damage.  

Defense attorney David Shircliff argued that the State withheld evidence before Monserrate Shirley took testified Wednesday.

Robert Smith (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

Robert Smith (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

It was Shirley's south side home that exploded.

The State argues that the natural gas step-down valve located in the fire place of Shirley's home was tampered with to allow a rush of gas to fill the home.

"The facts just stink in this.This just puts us in a bad position to defend our client," said Shircliff.

Shirley mentioned the step-down valve as she testified, but the defense claims that, "Monserrate Shirley testified to the valve on April 9, and that's the first time we had ever heard about it," said Shircliff.

St. Joseph County judge John Marnocha quickly denied the request for a mistrial.

While incarcerated in the Marion County Jail, Leonard is accused of hiring a "hit man" to kill a witness. Leonard confided in fellow inmate Robert Smith. Smith is also a jail informant.

Leonard made several calls to a "hit man" while in jail. It was later revealed that Leonard was conversing with an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)--not a hit man. 

Shircliff told the judge that Smith was giving drugs to Leonard. The defense argued that the drugs impaired Leonard's judgement.  

"Threats to kill a witness are admissible. They just are," said Judge John Marnocha.

Stephen Belt, a Richmond Hill resident who couldn't testify in the first weeks of the trial due to a personal conflict, was the first to testify against Leonard Thursday morning.

"The door was off the hinges and all the glass was in the house on the floor," said Belt

Belt said he left the Richmond Hill subdivision after the blast and went directly to a relatives house.

Prosecutor Denise Robinson asked Belt to describe the extent of the damage caused by the blast.

"My house twisted. My wife actually heard the person who lost their life screaming for help," said Belt.

Sketch of Mark Leonard (left) and Defense Attorney David Shircliff in court. (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

Sketch of Mark Leonard (left) and Defense Attorney David Shircliff in court. (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

Cory Grogg, a former member of the Marion County Sheriff's gang and intelligence unit, was called to the stand and first questioned by deputy prosecutor Mark Hollingsworth.

Grogg was asked to identify a hand-written letter that was brought to him by a jail staffer in 2013.

Corey McGriff was the jail employee who brought the letter to Grogg.

The letter also contained a map. The State contends the map shows Leonard's intended hit--witness Mark Duckworth.

Defense attorney Diane Black asked McGriff to discuss the culture of jailhouse informants known as "snitches," or as she prefers, "information inmates."

"If people find out they are information inmates there is a risk of them being harmed," said Black. She also highlighted the potential reward for jailhouse informants.

McGriff recalls talking face-to-face with Smith roughly 10-20 times and received about two dozen letters from Smith.  

After the lunch break, jail informant Robert Smith was called as the states' next witness.

"He [Leonard] started just talked to me," said Smith.     

Smith testified that his bond was reduced for the charges he faced for providing information against Leonard.

Robinson outlined Smith's long criminal history, pointing out the fact that Smith was not requited to testify against Leonard in the Richmond Hill case.

"Why are you here?" asked Robinson

"I just thought it was the right thing to do," Smith replied.

Smith described the relationship he formed with Leonard while incarcerated.

Over a series of conversations Leonard allegedly told Smith how he blew up the Richmond Hill Home.

Smith also told the jury that Leonard wanted to have Mark Duckworth killed--a potential witness in the case.

"He wanted him killed and he was willing to pay a fee for it. I told him I couldn't do it but I could find somebody who could," said Smith.

Smith, a former member of the Aryian Brotherhood, said he never intended to help Leonard hire a hitman. Rather, he was going share the information with jail guards.  

An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) detective interviewed Smith about the information he received from Leonard.

The detective provided Smith with a phone number and the name of a fictitious hit-man.

 Leonard made two phone calls to the "hit man" named Jay, according to Smith.

Robinson explained to the jury that Smith wasn't receiving a cash reward in exchange for providing information or his testimony.

Judge John Marnocha (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

Judge John Marnocha (Sketch by Dave Blodgett)

David Shircliff, Leonard's attorney, accused Smith of concealing his medication and using it as currency throughout the jail.

Smith repeatedly denied the allegations.

Shircliff then played a tape recorded phone call of Smith where he could be heard saying that he distributed his medication, "I ain't never took any of them."

The defense aggressively questioned Smith about the money he received in exchange for information in other cases.

Shircliff referenced a phone call Smith made to his girlfriend where he told her $10,000 might be waiting for him if he helped in the Leonard case.

However, on the witness stand, Smith admitted that he might have been embellishing to his girlfriend.

 "The State's not going to give me $10,000," said Smith.

The final witness of the week was Jeremy Godsave, a special agent with the ATF.

He played the role of the hit-man after corroborate Leonard's hit-man plot as credible.  

The jury heard the recorded jail phone calls between Leonard and Godsave.

Leonard can be heard in the first conversation  providing specific instructions on how to find Duckworth's home and describing the car he drives. 

In the second call, Leonard tells the ATF agent to force Duckworth to call 911 before killing him.  

Leonard wanted Duckworth to tell the 911 operator, "I want him to say, ‘I did not mean to frame Mark and Moncy for their own house in Richmond Hill. The large amounts of money he leaves lying around, that’s what bought a lot of drugs and whores.'”

The defense did not cross-examine Godsave.

Duckworth is expected to be the first witness after the holiday weekend.  

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