Man pleads guilty in plot to kill witness

An undated file photo of Aaron Hand in An undated file photo of Aaron Hand in court. Photo Credit: Mariela Lombard/ POOL

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A Long Island man pleaded guilty Monday in state court in Manhattan to hatching a plot in prison to kill a witness who had testified against him in a mortgage fraud case.

Aaron Hand, 40, formerly of Oyster Bay Cove, faces 8 to 16 years in prison for conspiracy as part of a plea bargain on top of the 8 1/3 to 25 year sentence he is already serving for heading up a $100 million mortgage fraud.

Prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges, which could have carried up to life in prison, as part of a plea bargain. Hand was convicted in the mortgage case in 2010, and has served about two years.

Last year, Hand allegedly spoke and met at Coxsackie Correctional Facility with an undercover agent posing as a hit man. He was taped telling the agent where the witness lived, outlining how the hit could be carried out, and suggesting that the target's spouse and children should be killed, too.

In addition to the conspiracy, Hand also admitted contacting his father and telling him he needed money to bribe a guard in order to secure cash as a down payment for the murder for hire. An associate gave the undercover agent $150, and Hand was accused of promising $2,000 when the killing was accomplished.

Hand didn't provide a narrative of the crime at the plea, but answered affirmatively when Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Ward asked him about the facts of the crime.

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Hand's first defense lawyer, at his arraignment last year, argued that his client had been illegally entrapped and never intended a killing. But on Monday lawyer Lee Ginsberg said they decided it wouldn't work as a defense.

"Entrapment is an extremely difficult affirmative defense," Ginsberg told reporters. "Based on our assessment, the client's decision was that this was a more appropriate way to resolve the case."

Hand's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 6.

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