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Rapist’s Lawyer Faces Contempt Hearing After Missing Client’s 3rd Sentencing Date

Times Staff Writer

The attorney for a man convicted of raping a legally blind California State University, Northridge, student was ordered Monday to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court after he failed for a third time to appear in San Fernando Superior Court for his client’s sentencing.

Judge Robert D. Fratianne set 9 a.m. Friday as the new date for sentencing of Joseph Richard Taylor, 27, of Panorama City. Fratianne ordered attorney Lawrence Elkins to explain his absence to the court at that time.

Attorney Chose Court Date

In what court officials called an uncommon action, the judge issued the order after a worker in Elkins’ Los Angeles office telephoned more than an hour after the attorney was scheduled to appear to say that Elkins was in court in Fontana. The caller asked, on Elkins’ behalf, that Taylor’s sentencing be postponed until Friday, court officials said.

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“How is that case more important than this one?” Fratianne asked crisply before he issued the order to the absent Elkins.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kent Cahill said Elkins had not appeared in court for Taylor’s scheduled sentencing on two previous dates, Dec. 16 and 18. Elkins chose Monday’s date himself, Cahill said, and was told to appear promptly at 9 a.m.

Fratianne repeatedly asked Cahill and the court clerk if the attorney had attempted to contact the court before Elkins’ office called at 10:15 a.m.

Refused to See Attorney

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After the judge’s order, Elkins arrived at the courthouse about 11:45 a.m., officials said. Cahill said he informed Fratianne of Elkins’ presence shortly before noon. However, the judge refused to see the defense attorney. Speaking through Cahill, Fratianne, who remained in his chambers, offered to go ahead with the contempt hearing and the sentencing Monday afternoon. But Elkins opted for the Friday date and returned to Fontana, Cahill said.

Elkins, reached by telephone while in Cahill’s office, refused to comment on his court absences. If held in contempt, he could be fined and ordered to serve time in County Jail.

Elkins’ client was found guilty by a San Fernando Superior Court jury Nov. 4 of raping the 17-year-old CSUN student and assaulting her roommate in their room in University Towers Apartments on Sept. 11, 1984. He is being held in County Jail.

Taylor, who attended a CSUN program for former convicts during the 1980-81 school year, also was convicted of one count each of robbery and burglary. According to court records, Taylor had been convicted of various crimes beginning at age 14. Police said Taylor had been on parole for nine days when he committed the crimes at CSUN.

Taylor pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but waived a sanity hearing after a report from a court-appointed psychiatrist was completed. The maximum penalty Taylor could receive is 37 years in state prison, Cahill said.


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