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Phillips testifies at attempted murder trial

BY MICHELLE MCCONNAUGHEY | APRIL 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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If Gregory Phillips wanted his former landlord Mezher Beig dead, he would have killed him, Phillips told a jury Tuesday.

Phillips, 57, of Iowa City said he was an expert at handling firearms, claiming he earned expert badges for every weapon he ever touched while serving in the military.

“If you had wanted to kill Mr. Beig, would you?” asked his attorney, Victoria Cole.

“Yes. He would have been demised with my military training,” Phillips answered.

Phillips is charged with attempted murder and going armed with intent for allegedly threatening to kill Beig at Dolphin Lake Enclave Apartments in 2008. Police said Phillips was angry he would have to move out of his unit during renovations.

According to police records, Phillips pointed the gun at Beig and pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire.

But Tuesday, Phillips said he only wanted to threaten the apartment manager and regretted his actions that night.

“I’m sorry for that; I shouldn’t have put him through that,” he said, looking down at the witness stand.

Prosecuting attorney Anne Lahey asked Phillips what he said to Beig when he first entered the office with the gun.

“The first thing I said was you’re effing up my life; I can eff yours up right now,” Phillips said.

He said Beig yelled into the phone, “He has a gun, he has a gun,” then dropped to the ground while still on the phone.

“Then I said, you won’t call the cops will you?” Phillips said. “Please don’t call the cops, please don’t call the cops.”

On the stand, Phillips recalled what he said was a broken promise and being forced out of his apartment after 33 years.

Beig had agreed to give Phillips two weeks to move out of his residence, Phillips said, and the two shook on it.

But two days later, on Sept. 4, 2008, Beig told Phillips he had to move out by the next day, Phillips told the jury.

“How can someone shake your hand and agree to two weeks and come back two days later and forget the handshake,” Phillips testified on Tuesday.

Prosecution attorneys played a videotape of Iowa City police questioning Phillips the night of the incident.

Officers asked Phillips repeatedly if he pulled the trigger on the gun.

“Maybe it did happen, I don’t know, I don’t remember pulling the trigger,” Phillips said in the video.

As the video played, Phillips stared down at the table and only glanced at the TV monitor a few times.

In the video, Phillips made comments about killing himself.

“I should have shot myself first,” Phillips said.

At the trial, retired Cedar Rapids police Officer Robert Stauffer said he tested the gun Phillips reportedly used and found it to be fully operational.

Although Beig allegedly heard the sound of the trigger being pulled, Stauffer said there are a number of things on the gun that make noise besides the pull of the trigger, such as the slide stop or safety.

On Monday, Beig testified to his terror as Phillips stuck a gun to his mouth, pressed it against his teeth and lips and said he was going to kill him, the Cedar Rapids Gazette has reported.

“I was just trying to survive,” Beig said, according to The Gazette. “I was trying to move outside, so someone would see us.”

“I never said, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ” Phillips said Tuesday. “If I say something, I’m going to do it.”

The trial will continue at 9:30 a.m. today.


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