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St. George man who plotted killings to take plea deal

Published May 29, 2013 6:35 pm

Courts • Agreement would potentially trim decades from Kelly J. Polatis' prison sentence.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A St. George man convicted in a murder-for-hire plot plans to accept a plea deal that will vacate his conviction and potentially trim decades from his prison sentence.

A federal jury found Kelly J. Polatis guilty of 14 charges in 2011 of scheming to hire a hit man to kill five people to derail a federal drug case against him in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The hit man was actually an undercover FBI agent.

Polatis faced potential prison terms of up to 30 years on four counts and a maximum of 10 years each on the others. But in March, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled that Polatis' attorney failed to properly inform him of the possible sentence he faced if convicted when discussing a plea deal offered by prosecutors. In fact, the attorney acknowledged he never calculated his client's potential sentence — twice what he was offered in the plea deal — until months after Polatis' trial ended.

Waddoups said that violated Polatis' Sixth Amendment rights. He said prosecutors had to reoffer the plea deal to Polatis and, if he accepted it, his convictions would be vacated and he would entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Polatis, 43, has agreed to plead guilty to two counts, each of which carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. A sentencing hearing is set for July 2.

As part of the plea deal, he admitted he spoke to or met several times with an alleged hit man and plotted to have him kill four potential witnesses in the drug case, as well as a federal prosecutor.

"I admit that during all of these contacts, it was my intent to promise and agree to pay the hit man in U.S. currency for the murders," Polatis in a court document, "and I did in fact agree to make such payment."

At his trial, Polatis claimed he was drunk and just "playing along" with the hit man because he was afraid of being harmed if he did not come up with the $15,000 they discussed. Polatis never made the payment, however.

Prosecutors said claims that Polatis was just drunk were a ruse and they showed jurors a cocktail napkin on which he had the hit man write names of potential victims.

brooke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Brooke4Trib