The owner of a Los Osos-based moving company is headed to prison after pleading no contest to solicitation of murder for trying to hire an undercover officer posing as a hit man to eliminate a former employee-turned-business rival.
Anthony Gene Stevens, 52, of Los Osos, entered a plea of no contest Thursday to the felony charge at a pretrial hearing Thursday morning in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
According to court records, Judge Michael Duffy immediately sentenced Stevens to three years in state prison. With time served and good conduct credits, Stevens will likely serve a little less than 2 1/2 years. He has remained in County Jail since his arrest.
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Because Stevens waived a preliminary hearing in April and never went to trial, details of the case have not been fully disclosed.
However, court documents revealed that the first person Stevens attempted to hire somehow alerted authorities. Stevens was taken into custody after allegedly handing over cash and personal information about Stireman to another person, an undercover officer, in an Arroyo Grande parking lot.
A possible motive in the case was described in a lawsuit filed in April by Stireman, which seeks unspecified damages against Stevens for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unlawful business practices, unauthorized use of copyrighted material and other complaints over alleged online harassment.
Stireman, who worked for Stevens for about a year beginning in 2013, claimed that Stevens was infuriated over his choice to begin freelancing moving jobs. He said that Stevens became “absolutely obsessed” with him, harassing him online using photographs Stireman had given him for record-keeping purposes in ads for Stevens’ business. Stireman additionally claimed that Stevens would troll him online, posting fake ads on Craigslist and bad-mouthing Stireman to customers and competitors.
The pair exchanged restraining orders, court responses and cease-and-desist orders in the months leading up to Stevens’ arrest.
Civil lawsuits are only one side of the story, and Stevens has yet to file a response. A case management conference in the civil case is scheduled for Aug. 15 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
According to court records, Stevens will immediately begin serving his sentence at the California Men’s Colony outside San Luis Obispo.