FORT EDWARD — The defense lawyer for a Fort Ann man who is accused of conspiring to kill his mother has told a judge his client is “immune” from prosecution in the case because he testified before the grand jury that indicted the killer.
Lawyer Joseph Brennan filed a motion last week seeking to dismiss the felony conspiracy charge on which his client, Gordon W. Twiss, was indicted earlier this year in connection with the death of his mother, 95-year-old Leona Twiss, last July.
The man who killed Twiss, 50-year-old Kevin L. Gonyea, has claimed that Gordon Twiss and Gordon Twiss’ son, David M. Twiss, were involved in the plot to kill Leona Twiss, whom Gonyea had been caring for at her home. Gonyea was her grandson. David Twiss is a retired state corrections officer.
Gonyea has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and his wife, Melissa Gonyea, pleaded guilty to charges that she assisted him with disposing of evidence. Leona Twiss was choked to death with a towel, as the Gonyeas told police they were overwhelmed by the duties of caring for her because she suffered from dementia.
Claims by the Gonyeas that other relatives were involved in the planning of the death of Leona Twiss led to the indictment of Gordon Twiss and David Twiss on felony conspiracy counts in February. The Gonyeas told police that David Twiss told them inmates were killed in prison by choking them with towels to leave no evidence.
Lawyers for the Twisses have filed motions to dismiss the charges on a variety of grounds, including a lack of evidence corroborating the Gonyeas’ claims and that there was no motive for the Twisses to want Leona Twiss dead. But Brennan filed an additional motion in recent days claiming there is a fatal flaw in Gordon Twiss’ case that stems from his testimony before the grand jury that indicted the Gonyeas.
Twiss did not waive immunity from prosecution when he went before the grand jury, and as such, his testimony resulted in “full transactional immunity” in connection with the death of his mother, according to his counsel.
“He cannot be convicted for any offense, or on account of the death of Leona Twiss,” Brennan wrote.
The Washington County District Attorney’s Office, though, responded in court papers that immunity is not automatic when a person testifies before a grand jury.
Gordon Twiss’ testimony was of a “limited scope” about the financial arrangements for the Gonyeas to care for Leona Twiss and to introduce documents, and the testimony was “not relevant” to the allegations in the conspiracy case, District Attorney Tony Jordan wrote.
“The granting of immunity is not absolute,” Jordan wrote.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan has yet to rule on the motions, and there was no timetable for a decision.
Gordon Twiss, a well-known Barber in Glens Falls, and his son are free pending further court action. No new court dates have been set pending a decision on pre-trial motions.