Charges of soliciting murder have been dropped against prominent Houston lawyer Jeffrey Stern, who was about to go on trial for allegedly plotting with his mistress to kill his wife.
Stern's former mistress, Michelle Gaiser, has already pleaded guilty to allegedly hatching a plot with Stern to kill his wife Yvonne and is awaiting sentencing. In exchange for her guilty plea and cooperation with the government, prosecutors agreed to reduce her possible life sentence to a maximum of 25 years in prison. The status of that deal is now in question.
Stern, 55, was expected to go on trial this week for the alleged attempts on his wife's life.
All charges against the wealthy attorney were dismissed today because of "insufficient corroboration of accomplice witness testimony."
"This has been a case in which the evidence has continuously evolved," First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner said in a statement today. "We have remained true to our mission by examining information objectively, weighing our decisions carefully, and acting prudently. Ultimately we have come to the conclusion that, at this point, the available evidence is not sufficient to justify taking this case to trial."
Last month, Stern's attorneys held a press conference to state they had information that Gaiser, 39, was trying to have Jeffrey Stern killed from behind bars.
Stern's lawyer, Paul Nugent, applauded the prosecution's decision today.
"Upon a final review of their case, the Harris County District Attorney's Office realized there was not credible evidence to proceed and has dismissed all charges against Jeff Stern," Nugent said in a statement.
Prosecutors originally alleged that Stern, a prominent Houston lawyer, and his former mistress planned three failed attempts to kill Yvonne Stern. In the third alleged attempt on her life in May 2010 she was shot in the stomach while sitting in her car.
Since the shooting, Yvonne Stern, 54, has reconciled with her husband and is now suing Gaiser. In a statement from her attorney today, Yvonne Stern expressed her relief that the case against her husband has been dropped.
"Mrs. Stern and her family are relieved this burden has been lifted," the Houston socialite said via her lawyer. "She remains extremely grateful to the first responders and medical professionals who saved her life and sincerely appreciates all of the hard work of the law enforcement officials who have worked tirelessly to bring the true perpetrators to justice."
The case, which had attracted extensive coverage with its details of the affair between Stern and Gaiser, had a fresh twist last month when Nugent held a press conference to claim Gaiser was plotting to have his client killed. Nugent read from a jailhouse letter Gaiser allegedly wrote in which the attorney said she ordered a hit on Stern.
"Michelle Gaiser -- from her jail cell -- has plotted yet another murder," Nugent said. "She has solicited an inmate to murder Jeffrey Stern for $20,000."
Nugent said Gaiser wrote that the hit should happen near the Sterns' vacation home in Aspen. According to Nugent, the letter also said that if Stern was killed near the Aspen residence, "people will think the wife did the planning to kill him as revenge."
Nugent said he turned the note over to the district attorney, who declined to bring Gaiser up on any new charges.