By Charles Sercombe
The Citezen - Hamtramck
A Hamtramck man was found not guilty of conspiring to break into a Mt. Pleasant jewelry store after a week-long trial.
But two other suspects in the case, Leonard Dushi and Petrit Imeri, both 20 and of Casmere St., pleaded no-contest to break-in charges. Another member of the group, Lisa Bardy, 23, of Norwalk St., pleaded no-contest to conspiracy to commit burglary.
Gjon Bucaj, 23, of Trowbridge St., the only suspect to request a trial, beat the charges of conspiracy to commit burglary and possession of burglary tools. He had been held in custody since January following his arrest after a Mt. Pleasant jewelry store was broken into.
Bucaj's attorney, James Galen Jr., said his client had driven with Bardy to her grandmother's cottage in Beavertown, just north of Mt. Pleasant on the same day as the break-in. Although Bucaj was acquainted with the other two suspects, he was unaware of a break-in being planned for that day or Bardy's role in it, Galen said.
"He was on his way to a vacation that turned into a nightmare for him," Galen said.
But according to police testimony, Bucaj was seen driving in Mt. Pleasant with Dushi and Petrit on the eve of the break-in.
Galen lashed out at Troy police, who were investigating the suspects following two burglaries in Troy, for sweeping Bucaj up with little evidence.
"They never had my client, Gjon Bucaj, one foot near Arthur's (the Mt. Pleasant jewelry store). No foot print. Nothing," said Galen.
Troy police teamed up with Hamtramck investigators in a surveillance of the suspects. Hamtramck police say the group is suspected in a number of jewelry store break-ins in the metro area and in several other states. There are no pending charges against any of the defendants.
Dushi and Imeri are in custody in Isabella County Jail pending an April 23 sentencing date. They face 10 years in prison. Bardy has been out on bond and has an April 7 sentencing date. Under her plea agreement, she faces no more than one year in jail.
None of the men is employed, but Bardy works as a secretary at Hamtramck High School.
Two convicted in Arthur's burglary try
By TOM GROMAK
Two Hamtramck men were convicted this week and a third acquitted of charges stemming from the attempted Jan. 9 nighttime burlglary of Arthur's Jewelers in Mt Pleasant.
Leinard Dushi, 20, Petrit Imerl, 21, both pleaded no contest to three counts against them: breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny, conspiracy to break and enter, and possession of burglary tools.
Their pleas came on the first day of a trial that eventually saw a third man, Gjon Bucaj, 23, get acquitted of the same charges by an Isabella County jury. Bucaj was found innocent Friday after a four-day trial and about 10 hours of jury deliberations. The trial was heard by Isabella County Circuit Judge Paul Chamberlain.
Each of the three charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Also convicted in the burglary attempt was Lisa Bardy, 24, who was Bucaj's girlfriend at the time. She pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit burglary on Feb. 25.
The charges date back to Jan. 9 when the four — allegedly part of a Detroit area burglary ring — were arrested after members of the group cut telephone and alarm wires to Arthur's Jewelers and cut a hole in the roof to gain access to the store.
The plan never got far. The group had been under surveillance by Troy police — nine of whom followed them here as part of an investigation of a string of burglaries going back to 1988. Police observed the cutting of the phone lines and parts of the break-in by Dushi and Imeri, but the two men fled after setting off a motion sensor and were arrested a short time later. Bucaj and Bardy — who said they were on their way to Beaverton to visit the woman's grandmother — were also picked up for allegedly acting as lookouts.
Bardy pleaded no contest, but Bucaj maintained his innocence.
His attorney, James L. Galen Jr., of Warren, said police lied on the witness stand when they claimed they, from within Arthurs, saw Bucaj drive by the store several times trying to see the progress of the burglary.
"The reason they're trying to get my guy is guilt by association," Galen said. He said Dushi and Imeri were caught red-handed with power tools, saws, and other tools of the burglary trade. "My guy was basically with the wrong people at the wrong time."
"Evidently the jury believed that was the case," said Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick. But jurors, who were told Bucaj was here with Bardy on a vacation, couldn't be told of Bardy's plea on conspiracy charges and Bucaj's criminal history of breaking and entering. "That's not their fault and that shouldn't affect their decision," he said.
Bardy will be sentenced April 7. Dushi and Imeri will be sentenced April 23.