Eye surgeon found guilty in murder-for-hire plot

Eye surgeon found guilty in murder-for-hire plot
SEATTLE - A prominent Renton eye surgeon was convicted Thursday of hiring a hit man to kill his business partner.

A King County Superior Court jury found Dr. Michael Mockovak guilty of solicitation to commit the murder of Dr. Joseph King, his partner in the Clearly Lasik eye surgery center.

Mockavak also was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and attempted first-degree theft. Jurors found him not guilty of a second count of criminal solicitation.

He faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for March 17 at the King County Courthouse.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Mockovak chose murder out of greed, and that he made a $10,000 down payment on the murder.

The hit man, however, was an FBI informant who videotaped Mockovak making the down payment.

"He chose murder out of greed and an overwhelming desire to run the business his way," said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Susan Storey.

In outlining the motive for murder, Storey said Mockovak would collect on a $4 million life insurance policy on King. She also claimed Mockovak thought King was greedy and cheating him.

Mockovak's lawyers argued during the trial that he was the victim of entrapment, a government set-up. Jurors said that made deliberations tough.

"We were surprised by the amount of persuasion the government could do in an entrapment, that they could really persuade the defendant," said juror Stephanie Delaney.

But Delaney says she felt the defense tried too hard to persuade them, and prosecutors agreed.

"We didn't believe that there was any entrapment and we think the jury did the right thing on those," Storey said.

Defense attorneys argued that Mockavak only joked about killing his partner, and FBI informant Daniel Kultin turned that joke into an actual plot.

King was not there as the verdicts were read. But, in a statement he said: "My colleagues, my family and I are relieved to put this sad episode behind us."