Lindsay Lohan’s attorney begs judge for mercy

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Lindsay Lohan’s new attorney asked a judge for mercy and compassion Friday as the actress faces criminal charges that she lied about not driving a Porsche that crashed into a truck on Pacific Coast Highway.

But Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Dabney offered a warning for the actress and said if she proceeded with her New York attorney, Mark Heller, as her sole legal counsel, Dabney would require her to sign a waiver stating that Heller was not competent in California law.


Lohan was absent from the courtroom Friday and was not required to appear.

Dabney disregarded Heller’s begging to delay the case until April and set a trial date for March 18, while repeatedly scolding the veteran New York lawyer for gaffes.

In asking for a delay, Heller told the judge to ‘give her leeway to show that she’s worthy of compassion.’

‘There seems to be some doubt as to whether Ms. Lohan is entitled to some mercy because of her history with this department,’ Heller continued.

Lohan has been on probation for various drunk-driving and shoplifting charges since 2007 and accumulated what the judge described as a voluminous court file.

But Dabney said he wasn’t about to be persuaded by Heller’s words and questioned the attorney’s ability to adequately defend the actress in California given he did not seem familiar with the state’s criminal law system.

‘I’m somewhat concerned whether you have sufficient guidance from local counsel,’ the judge told Lohan’s New York attorney after Heller filed a ‘bill of particulars'--a motion not used in California criminal proceedings. A local attorney who vouched for Heller has not practiced law for several years. The judge bluntly lectured Heller for 10 minutes on how that, as well as some other motions, were incorrect procedures for a California criminal court. Until last month, Lohan was represented by Shawn Holley, among the region’s top lawyers.

Heller took the legal helm recently after representing Lohan in New York. Dabney rejected Heller’s motion to dismiss and informed the attorney he had not complied with California legal requirements. Under state law, attorneys must file motions to dismiss during the arraignment, Dabney said. That period has already passed.

Heller said he could not file a motion to dismiss at the arraignment because he was not Lohan’s attorney at the time. Heller said he was seeking to protect Lohan’s constitutional rights and was unable to determine from the charges whether his client made statements at the scene, at the hospital or to emergency responders.

But the judge said California lawyers know that such a motion regarding Miranda rights and statements is only appropriate once the case reaches trial.

Santa Monica prosecutors allege the 26-year-old actress told officers she was not driving a Porsche that rear-ended a truck on June 18 as she headed to the set of “Liz & Dick.” Lohan faces one misdemeanor count each of reckless driving, providing false information to an officer and willfully resisting, obstructing or delaying an officer.

Though prosecutors and Heller met this week, a settlement was not reached. To avoid trial on those charges, as well as violating her probation on a separate shoplifting conviction, Lohan will have to agree to serve at least 90 days in a lockdown rehabilitation facility, according to a source familiar with case. The Los Angeles City Attorney has refused to allow Lohan to receive anything less, according to a source.

Santa Monica City prosecutor Terry White said Friday he was ready to proceed to trial.

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-- Richard Winton at Los Angeles County Superior Court