A former Michigan prosecutor turned defense attorney is behind bars, accused of trying to hire a hitman to take out a rival attorney.
Clarence Gomery, 59, has been charged with homicide, solicitation of murder. He was arraigned last week, and a preliminary examination is scheduled for July 28.
His alleged target was Chris Cooke, a fellow attorney he was battling in civil court. Police say Gomery offered a man $20,000, plus another $1,000 to buy a gun to kill Cooke, but instead of shooting Cooke, the prospective hitman turned Gomery in to authorities.
Cooke says he is “eternally grateful” that Gomery’s alleged plot was foiled.
“I think God intervened to a degree, and there was a very ethical person who came forward,” Cooke said.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff Thomas Bensley was also thankful that authorities were contacted.
“Had he not come forward, Mr. Gomery may have very well found someone else to carry out his plan, and we’d be investigating a murder, not this instance,” Bensley said.
Prosecutors allege that Gomery targeted Cooke because he was representing another man who was suing Gomery over a real estate deal.
Gomery’s attorneys have argued that the married father and grandfather is not a financial flight risk because he’s declared bankruptcy.
Additionally, Gomery had no prior criminal history.
But Judge Michael Stepka called the facts of the case “significant and disturbing,” and set the bail at $5 million.
“I’m concerned for the safety of the public. I’m concerned for Mr. Cooke,” Stepka said.
Cooke said he is looking for the judicial system to run its course.
“I believe the right thing will occur, and the system will do its job,” he said.
If convicted on the solicitation of murder charge, Gomery could face a possible life sentence.