PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A 33-year-old man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting death of his boss.
Jesus Hernandez, a Mexican national, entered the plea Wednesday before 4th District Judge Samuel McVey. Under a plea deal, obstruction of justice and weapons charges were dropped.
Hernandez said he shot Joseph Crummy, 38, of Salt Lake City, on Jan. 9, 2004, at the Traverse Mountain development in Lehi. The crime occurred after Hernandez saw Crummy, his construction boss, at the site and an argument over wages ensued.
The offense carries a possible penalty of five years to life in prison. The judge set a preliminary sentencing date of May 3.
When McVey asked Hernandez if he had shot his boss because he felt threatened or in self-defense, he said no, but added that "(Crummy) was very violent with other people and insulting."
Dana Facemyer, Hernandez's attorney, said Wednesday's plea deal was the best option for his client based on competency issues and other legal hurdles.
"We felt it was better to plea it down in this setting," he said.
Facemyer said Hernandez knows he should not have acted in the violent manner that he did, but his client maintains he had legitimate wage grievances against Crummy.
Hernandez contended the stucco contractor owed him $1,345 for three weeks of work. His father, Julian Hernandez, claimed Crummy owed him $1,900, including $1,191 from a bounced check.
Both men had filed claims with the state Labor Commission on Dec. 20, but Facemyer said they were ignored.
"He contacted the state to assist him, and they never did," Facemyer said. "They were disrespectful and rude. If the state of Utah would have done something, this case would have turned out differently."
On the day of the crime, the attorney said, Hernandez had not intended to confront Crummy but had gone to the job site to speak with company officials about the dispute.
"They were rude and disrespectful to my client and the Traverse Mountain developer," Facemyer said. "This was not a random act. ... Without a doubt it could have been avoided."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)