A furor erupted today over a plea deal that resulted in a 20 year prison sentence for a murderous Texas mistress with the victim and her lawyer calling the deal "corrupt" and "laughable."
Prosecutors fired back questioning the "integrity and ethics" of the lawyer representing the victim of the attempted murder.
Michelle Gaiser, 39, pleaded guilty today to solicitation of capital murder for the 2010 attempts to kill Yvonne Stern, 54. Gaiser claimed to have plotted the murders with her lover, Jeffrey Stern, Yvonne Stern's husband.
Yvonne Stern has since reconciled with her husband and earlier this week prosecutors dropped all charges against Jeffrey Stern because Gaiser's claims could not be corroborated.
Gaiser must serve at least half of her sentence before being eligible for parole, and with credit for time served she will be eligible in about eight years. At the end of her sentence, she will be deported to her native Philippines.
Yvonne Stern wanted Gaiser sentenced to 40 year and read a scathing victim's impact statement in court today, accusing prosecutor Kari Allen of treating "this killer like her best friend."
"This corrupt plea deal would be more understandable if she had not lived her adult life lying, cheating, stealing and trying to kill anyone who crossed her or stood in her way," Yvonne Stern said. "I feel completely betrayed by Kari Allen and Pat Lykos for making this crooked deal."
Stern's attorney, Chip Lewis, accused Lykos, the Harris County district attorney, of pacifying Gaiser's lawyers by giving her a "laughable" sentence.
Lykos released a blistering statement in response to Lewis' comments.
"Chip Lewis has once again demonstrated that he and the truth are strangers, and calumny is his constant companion. Defamation spews from his lips as naturally as breathing," Lykos wrote.
She noted that Lewis, who used to be employed by the district attorney's office, left "under a cloud."
During his time with the district attorney's office, Lewis was prosecuting a sexual assault case involving three defendants who were charged with raping an unconscious woman, Lykos said.
Without notifying the victim, Lewis had charges against two of the men dismissed and had the charges of the third defendant reduce to a non-sexual offense, she said.
"Shortly thereafter Lewis resigned from the District Attorney's Office and went to work for one of the defense attorneys involved," she said. "This is the man who proposes to stand in judgment of Kari Allen's ethics and integrity. Were he capable of it, he should be ashamed."
The sentencing capped a tumultuous investigation of the case.
"It is near impossible for me to put into words the pain and suffering this animal has caused me and my family," Yvonne Stern said. "I have suffered for two years due to this animal and remain scarred for life."
"It is clear that this monster is very unstable and she should spend the rest of her existence behind bars where she cannot attempt to kill anyone else," she said.
In exchange for her guilty plea and cooperation with the government, prosecutors had initially agreed to reduce her possible life sentence to a maximum of 25 years in prison.
The status of Gaiser's previous deal was questioned after Tuesday's announcement that charges were dropped against Jeffrey Stern.
Last month, Stern's attorneys held a press conference to state they had information that Gaiser was trying to have Jeffrey Stern killed from behind bars. 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. 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 has launched a civil suit against Gaiser.