Man Who Assaulted Officer Stabs Lawyer

Times Staff Writer

A Redondo Beach man, awaiting sentencing in a Torrance courtroom, stabbed his attorney in the chest with an ice pick Tuesday and in turn was shot in the leg by a bailiff when he refused to drop the weapon, authorities said.

John Laurence Proudfoot, 39, convicted of assaulting a police officer, and attorney Kenneth Kahn, 45, were arguing about the case during a recess before Proudfoot was to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Gary Hastings when Proudfoot produced the weapon and assaulted Kahn, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said.

Proudfoot chased Kahn as the wounded attorney attempted to reach safety through a rear door, but he was cut off near the back of the courtroom by sheriff's Deputy Julius Tabb, who was working as a bailiff. Tabb shot Proudfoot in the right leg after he ignored repeated requests to drop the ice pick and then "began advancing," investigators said.

Not Usually Searched

Deputy Dave Tellez, a sheriff's spokesman, said defendants who are free on their own recognizance, as Proudfoot was, are not usually searched when they enter a courtroom. He said investigators did not know the nature of the argument that led to the stabbing.

Kahn, who was defense attorney for convicted spy Andrew Daulton Lee in the so-called "Falcon and the Snowman" case, was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, where he was reported in good condition.

Proudfoot was in satisfactory condition in the jail ward at County-USC Medical Center.

Several people fled from the courtroom after the stabbing, including Court Clerk Lynn Robinson, who rushed into Hasting's chambers to call for help, witnesses said.

Attorney Robert Fritz, who was in the chambers for a settlement conference on a different case, said the judge locked the door as they listened to Tabb order Proudfoot to drop the ice pick.

"We heard him (Tabb) pleading with him for quite awhile, and then we heard the shot," Fritz said. "We were scared to death."

Hastings said Proudfoot had been convicted of assaulting a Redondo Beach police officer after a four-day jury trial in February and faced a possible maximum sentence of five years.

Redondo Beach Police Lt. Jeffrey Cameron said Proudfoot attacked Officer Joe Leonardi last March with a five-pound, 18-inch steel wrench after police had been called to Proudfoot's home on South Irena Street by Proudfoot's mother.

"He was talking irrationally, saying people were following him and that he was receiving transmission waves from the Drug Enforcement Agency," Cameron said. "He was swinging the wrench at the police officer numerous times, like a baseball bat swing."

Cameron said Proudfoot did not strike Leonardi.

Described as 'Volatile'

Deputy Dist. Atty. Joanne Cassidy, who prosecuted the case, described Proudfoot as "volatile" during the trial and said he frequently argued with Kahn about his handling of the case.

Proudfoot took the stand in his own defense during the trial, despite Kahn's recommendation against it, she said.

"His testimony was that he came out of the house because he had been hearing voices for a long time, and he just wanted to end it all," she said. "He wanted to get killed."

Proudfoot, who is unemployed, had undergone a series of psychological tests last fall, but Cassidy said the tests showed that he was mentally stable.

Proudfoot was initially freed on $50,000 bail, but that was later retracted and he had been free on his own recognizance since November, court officials said.

Never Expressed Any Fear

Annie Olivarez, Kahn's secretary, said the attorney, who lives in Hermosa Beach, never expressed any fear of Proudfoot.

Kahn, who now represents some relatives of Liberace in a case involving the late entertainer's estate, is probably most well known for his defense of Lee, who was convicted in 1977 along with Christopher Boyce for selling secrets to the Soviet Union.

The attorney recently settled an $11-million suit against Orion Pictures, distributors of the film "The Falcon and the Snowman." Kahn said the film included a fabricated scene between Lee and himself.

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