'Twilight' Defense Subpoenas Reiner on Court Dispute

Times Staff Writer

Defense attorneys in the "Twilight Zone" trial Wednesday subpoenaed Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner and other top officials in his office to testify in court Monday about a courtroom dispute last week between the former and current prosecutors in the manslaughter case.

The defense has also written to the state attorney general's office to request an independent investigation of alleged prosecutorial misconduct, said attorney Harland Braun, who represents co-defendant George Folsey Jr.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Gilbert Garcetti responded that he and Reiner will appear in court only if ordered to do so by a judge. Reiner spokesman Schuyler Sprowles said of the defense moves: "Mr. Braun is up to his usual showboat shenanigans . . . it's meaningless drivel."

The trial of "Twilight Zone" associate producer Folsey, director John Landis and three film-making associates is scheduled to resume Monday after a week's recess. The five defendants are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors in a helicopter accident during the filming of the 1982 movie.

Unusual Conflict

The defense moves stem from a highly unusual conflict last week between the two prosecutors. The current prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino, voluntarily took the witness stand to back the credibility of a key prosecution witness, production secretary Donna Schuman.

D'Agostino testified immediately after Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary Kesselman, who swore on the stand that Schuman had made untrue statements under oath. Specifically, Kesselman denied having told Schuman that he planned to deliberately withhold statements from the defense to avoid "tipping his hand." He also denied ever being told by Schuman that Landis said "We're all going to go to jail" for illegally hiring the child actors.

Kesselman, who withdrew from the case in late 1985 for personal reasons, had been subpoenaed to testify by the defense.

Braun said the defense took its actions after the cancellation of a defense interview with Kesselman designed to elicit further information from the prosecutor. Garcetti said he advised Kesselman that it would be best for him to speak again to the defense in court only.

But Braun called such a stance "Watergate-like" and said he would subpoena Reiner and the others in an attempt to find out what they know about the prosecutors' conflicting statements.

Letter Sent

In his letter to the attorney general's office, Braun asked for an independent investigation of what he contends are "allegations of professional misconduct" by the two prosecutors.

"Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino has accused Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary Kesselman of suppressing evidence, obstructing justice and committing perjury. . . ," the letter reads. "Kesselman has denied these allegations under oath and has accused the key prosecution witness of perjury. . . . I do not see how your office has any choice but to independently investigate these allegations of professional misconduct."

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