ROCKFORD – An Algonquin attorney was sentenced Tuesday to 8 1/2 years in federal prison for his plot to have his fianceé's ex killed.
Jason W. Smiekel, 30, previously pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder using interstate commerce. The intended target was Brian Hegg, who also was Smiekel's client at one point.
Prosecutors said Smiekel made several attempts to have Hegg killed, including soliciting a high school friend. Another attempt was with a former client who owed Smiekel's firm money. And the last ended up being an undercover agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Smiekel's attorney, Ralph Meczyk, had argued not that Smiekel was insane at the time of the offense, but that he had "diminished capacity."
"The entire tragic event can be considered the unraveling of Jason Smiekel," Meczyk said. "A lawyer, son, father, who – not to be trite or use a cliché – went off the deep end."
Smiekel suffered from a severe anxiety disorder that made him act irrationally and left him in great fear of Hegg, whether that fear was real or perceived, Meczyk said.
But prosecutors pointed to the fact that Smiekel tried to have Hegg killed multiple times over the course of several months. Smiekel had several reasons for wanting to do so, including that Hegg filed a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, Assistant U.S. Attorney John McKenzie said.
Smiekel sipped a frappuccino while discussing murder-for-hire, McKenzie said.
"Now he wants to have a shorter sentence because poor Jason suffered from anxiety?" McKenzie said. "That seems wrong."
In handing down his sentence, U.S. Judge Frederick Kapala said he had difficulty accepting the conclusions of defense experts, instead siding with a prosecution expert who said that Smiekel could control his actions.
After watching video of Smiekel meeting with an undercover agent, Kapala said Smiekel was matter-of-fact, composed, and calculated.
Kapala also noted that Smiekel tried to keep his financial transactions from looking suspicious, used throw-away phones, and planned an alibi for when Hegg was supposed to be killed.
"I do not see how Mr. Smiekel could not understand that he was arranging the death of Brian Hegg," Kapala said. "It is a cold, evil, pernicious act to pay money to have another person murdered."
Stressors are common in modern society, and society expects people to cope with them, Kapala said, although he noted that Smiekel's mental condition should be taken into consideration.
Smiekel briefly addressed the court before the sentence, apologizing to Hegg. He also said he would seek out and actively participate in treatment.
"I can assure you under God, 100 percent, that I will never repeat those actions," Smiekel said.
Smiekel has been in custody at the Boone County Jail since his arrest in August 2011. He likely will serve his sentence in the Federal Medical Center near Rochester, Minn., which specializes in mental health services for male offenders.
Smiekel's law license was suspended pending the outcome of the case.