Calling a jailhouse informant a "career criminal" with a long list of convictions, the attorney for Ronald Thornton Wednesday accused the informant of using Thornton to get out of jail.
Thomas Shelton, 39, of Patchogue, admitted on the stand during Thornton's murder trial in Riverhead that he sent numerous letters - before and after meeting Thornton in the Suffolk County jail - offering Suffolk prosecutors information on inmates in exchange for early release from jail.
He said he contacted the Suffolk district attorney's office in January 2009 after he said Thornton approached him about a plot to kidnap the daughter of a woman who had agreed to testify against Thornton.
Questioned by Thornton's attorney, Glenn Obedin of Central Islip, Shelton said that soon after telling authorities about the alleged plot, he was moved from jail to an outpatient drug rehabilitation program.
"This is how you live your life," Obedin said to Shelton. "You get arrested, you go to jail, and you . . . try to get information on people in vulnerable positions."
"Sure," Shelton said.
Thornton, 39, of Nesconset, is charged with hiring three people to kill his business partner, James DiMartino, and trying to arrange the kidnapping. He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy.
DiMartino, 44, of Nesconset, was shot in a Commack parking lot on Oct. 20, 2008.
Wearing an electronic ankle bracelet as he testified in Suffolk County Court, Shelton admitted he was a registered sex offender and had been convicted 16 times for crimes such as sex abuse, burglary and driving while intoxicated. He returned to jail in December 2008 for a parole violation, he said.
Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford, Shelton said Thornton asked him if Shelton knew anyone who could kidnap the daughter of Monique Randall, one of three people Thornton allegedly hired to kill DiMartino. Randall, 30, of St. Albans, Queens, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November 2008 and agreed to testify against Thornton.
Thornton "wanted to be out [of jail] by Valentine's Day," Shelton said.
State police investigator John Seymour and Suffolk Det. Thomas Hess testified that they posed as kidnappers to record conversations with Thornton in which they discussed the abduction.
In a recording played in court Wednesday, Hess is heard telling Thornton the girl was kidnapped as she got off a bus, to which Thornton replied, "I love you guys."
Randall's daughter never was abducted. Randall testified against Thornton last week.