Judge Rules Murder Charge Stands Despite 2 Dismissals

Times Staff Writer

A Van Nuys Municipal Court judge refused Thursday to throw out a twice-dismissed murder charge against a former peep-show bouncer, even though state law prohibits the refiling of a charge that has been twice dismissed.

The attorney for 32-year-old Charles K. Biddle, who is accused in the stabbing death of a Van Nuys print shop operator, predicted that the state Court of Appeal will promptly overturn the decision and release Biddle.

In Thursday's action, Municipal Court Judge Judith Meisels Ashmann said a dismissal requested by a prosecutor in 1984 did not deprive Biddle of a "substantial right" and therefore should not count.

But Deputy Public Defender William M. Thornbury, who represents Biddle, said state law is "crystal clear on this issue," adding, "That dismissal counts. In fact, the Legislature has considered bills that would have permitted the judge to do what she did today, but they have not been passed."

Biddle was arrested in November, 1984, and charged with the murder-for-hire stabbing of Jeffrey Collins, 38, of Agoura Hills, a Los Angeles firefighter who ran a printing business in his off-duty hours.

That same month, a second defendant, Robert Herbst, 38, owner of a Van Nuys bookbinding business, was also arrested in the case.

The initial charge against Biddle was dismissed at that time at the request of Deputy Dist. Atty. Burton J. Schneirow, so he could file new charges against both men. The case against Herbst was later dropped, however, when the prosecutors said they lacked sufficient evidence.

Biddle's case was dismissed for the second time Feb. 27, when Van Nuys Superior Court Judge James A. Albracht ruled that Biddle had been denied his constitutional right to a continuous preliminary hearing.

The hearing was held in two segments, several weeks apart, and prosecutors neglected to get Biddle to waive his right to an uninterrupted hearing.

After Albracht's ruling on Feb. 27, prosecutors refiled the charge, prompting Thornbury's motion that his client be freed.

The case was continued until April 7 to provide time for the appeal court to review Thornbury's petition.

Police had alleged that Herbst had paid Biddle to kill Collins over a disputed business deal involving silver bullion.

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