"He handed it to me, and I looked at it, and I was shocked," Pothen says. "This was an unsolved homicide, and I was kind of surprised why the chief of police would provide a private investigator with these documents."
During the meeting, Pothen claims, Stephens and Horvath pressured him to open an investigation of Milano, not necessarily for the Coleman killing but for anything that could lead to Milano's arrest. "I was trying to determine what justification we had to look at this guy," Pothen says. "They didn't have anything in particular."
Stephens' interest in having Milano arrested was apparent, Pothen says. It would certainly hurt the English prosecutors if one of their witnesses was facing criminal charges--perhaps even a murder charge--in the United States.
But Horvath's motivation seemed even more sinister, Pothen says. The chief simply wanted Milano charged with something. "If there is one word to characterize his behavior, he was just obsessed," Pothen says. "He was obsessed with [Milano]."
Pothen ultimately refused to investigate Milano. This summer, he was fired from the DeSoto Police Department after 16 years of service. Pothen was dismissed for supposedly improper behavior when he and other officers tried to question a suspect in a car theft ring. He is appealing the firing, arguing that he was dismissed because he refused to cooperate with Horvath's efforts to nail Milano.
Stephens and Horvath both deny that they pressured Pothen to do anything improper. They say they were trying to inform Pothen of the statements from witnesses in Europe who had allegedly heard Milano brag about killing Coleman. Stephens was offering new evidence in the Coleman case, and Pothen was being instructed to follow up on it, Horvath and Stephens say. "The chief instructed, in my presence, Lieutenant Pothen to listen to what I had, and after they collectively listened to what I had, that he was to effectively review the entire [Coleman] investigation...to reinvigorate the investigation," Stephens says.
Pothen's assertion that he was being pressured to chase after Milano for any possible charges, Stephens says, "is unmitigated horse crap."
Pothen says he would have no part of the mess, and refused to cooperate with Stephens despite the chief's instructions. One reason, Pothen says, is that the main witness Stephens was offering--an English woman who claimed to have heard Milano brag about the Coleman killing--had been known to DeSoto police for almost two years, and her declarations had already been discounted by investigators. (The woman had lost money in a business deal with Milano, and investigators believed she may have contrived her assertions to get even.)
For the rest of 1994, Horvath and Stephens remained in touch. Two letters that Stephens sent to Horvath in late 1994 and early 1995, Milano says, indicate that Horvath had formed an unholy alliance with Stephens and the Michael Austin defense team.
The defense wanted Horvath to come to England for Austin's trial and testify that Milano was a suspected murderer whose testimony against Austin should not be believed.
In return, Stephens offered Horvath the chance to personally interview the witnesses who supposedly had heard Milano bragging about the Coleman killing.
On December 30, 1994, Stephens wrote to Horvath asking him to testify for the defense at Austin's trial. The letter continues on to offer Horvath help in interviewing the Englishwoman whose information on the Coleman killing had already been discounted by DeSoto investigators.
In the letter, Stephens explains that his tracks will need to be covered. An interview of the woman will be arranged, Stephens writes, but it cannot look like it came from the Austin defense camp. "Austin's legal counsel did not want to leave any impression on the record that they were 'targeting' [Milano]," the letter says. After discussing arrangements for Horvath to interview the woman in Scotland, the letter explains that the woman "will be a key witness in the Austin defense, and it is clear that there is an advantage towards having [her] volunteer her statement to you directly through her solicitors rather than through Austin's legal counsel."
In a second letter, dated January 7, 1995, Stephens told Horvath that the Austin defense team would "prefer" that Horvath seek to have Milano indicted for the Coleman killing before Milano could testify in Austin's trial. "I advised them, however, that such a scenario was improbable," Stephens wrote.
Milano calls the letters proof that Horvath and Stephens were conspiring to have him arrested unjustly--Stephens to help the Austin defense case, and Horvath to satisfy his hunger for Milano's arrest.