HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A Houston City Council member is one of the star witnesses in a murder-for-hire trial. Testimony began this morning in the trial for Leon Jacob who is accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill two people.
On the stand, Houston City Councilman Michael Kubosh said he couldn’t believe it when a man came into his office talking about hiring someone to “take care” of his ex-girlfriend.
"To be honest with you I felt like I was talking to the devil himself,” says Kubosh.
It was more than a year ago when Jacob had the conversation with Kubosh. According to the city councilman, who’s also a bail bondsman, Jacob told him he had already paid a man “a lot of money" to get rid of his ex-girlfriend Meghan Verikas.
"I asked him 'why are you talking to me like this?' I’m not just a bondsman, I’m a city councilman. I’ve taken an oath to protect the people of this city,” Kubosh said.
Kubosh immediately called Houston police. HPD found the man, Moataz Azzeh, who Jacob paid about $10,000 to and investigators began undercover surveillance.
In court, where Jacob is charged with Solicitation to Commit Capital Murder, Azzeh testified about introducing Jacob to a Houston police officer posing as a hitman.
“Mr. Jacob here is a Houstonian, he’s a PhD and above all he’s a father. I am honored to represent him,” Jacob’s attorney Matthew Pospisil told the jury in opening statements.
According to the defense, Jacob didn't want his ex-girlfriend killed but rather run out of town so she couldn’t testify against him on charges of assaulting and stalking her.
"It takes a quantum leap of imagination to think you turn from a lover to a killer of the person that you love,” Jacob’s attorney George Parnham said in court.
But on the stand, Azzeh says Jacob paid him to first kidnap his ex-girlfriend. "And if it doesn’t work he wanted me to make her disappear. Basically he wanted her gone. He wanted her dead,” says Azzeh.
"One of the things you’ll learn about Leon Jacob is he has to be in control. This all started on January 12th last year when his longtime girlfriend Meghan Verikas left him,” says Prosecuting Attorney Cameron Calligan.
Weeks after the breakup Jacob was in a new relationship with veterinarian Valerie McDaniel. Prosecutors say Jacob and McDaniel were caught on camera with an undercover officer, who they thought was a hitman, making plans to kill Jacob’s ex-girlfriend and McDaniel’s ex-husband. Jacob and McDaniel were supposedly then shown graphic pictures as proof. The photos were of McDaniel’s ex-husband pretending to be dead and Jacob’s ex-girlfriend zip tied and duct taped. Both are fine and took the photos while working with police.
The defense claims officers targeted “successful, educated people” in an effort to create a career making case.
"We wouldn’t be here today if it was not for (the undercover officer) trying to make this into a television story,” Pospisil said in opening statements.
Valerie McDaniel killed herself after her arrest, while out on bond and awaiting trial. Jacob’s ex-girlfriend is expected to take the stand Wednesday morning. The jury could begin deliberating Friday.