Attorney defending Jeffrey Willis takes job with prosecutor

Posted at 4:18 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 16:18:44-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. – A change of jobs for a Muskegon County defense attorney could cause issues leading up to a high-profile murder trial.

Muskegon County Public Defender Fred Johnson tells FOX 17 that attorney Brian Hosticka has taken a new position in the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office.  Hosticka was the lead defense attorney for Jeffrey Willis, who is expected to go on trial this fall in the murder of Rebekah Bletsch.

Willis is also charged in the murder and disappearance of Jessica Heeringa.

Johnson says that he will ask the court for ruling on whether or not this change will give prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s office an unfair advantage in the Willis trial.  Johnson says that Hosticka will not be allowed to be involved in any case that is being worked on by the defender’s office and that Hilson will have to show that Hosticka’s new position will not “cross-contaminate” the case, meaning that his inside information won’t be used against his former client during trial.

The defender’s office plans on filing a motion Monday to the judge for him to see if contamination will be an issue. If the judge finds that it is, then he may order they drop the case and it be assigned to another prosecutor.

The trial for the murder of Bletsch was originally scheduled for June, but was moved to September.

Johnson says he’ll take over as the lead attorney in the Willis case.

Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson says he doesn’t expect Hosticka’s departure to cause any delays in the case, adding that he’s not worried about potential contamination issues.

“I have an ethical responsibility, just as Mr. Hosticka has an ethical responsibility not to involve himself in my preparation of the case, and I’m not to involved him in my preparation of the case,” Hilson said.

Hilson says Hosticka is going to be working in the family division, away from the criminal division.

Willis is accused of murdering Rebekah Bletsch in 2014 and of kidnapping and killing Jessica Heeringa in 2013 in Muskegon County. He is also accused of abducting a teen in 2016, which is what eventually led to his arrest.