Jury Rejects Prison Lovers' Defense in Aerial Escape, Finds Them Guilty

Times Staff Writer

A jury found prison lovers Ronald McIntosh and Dorinda Lopez guilty Tuesday of their dramatic helicopter escape, rejecting the defense that she was being threatened with death and that McIntosh thought he had to "rescue" her.

The jury took two hours to reject their so-called necessity defenses--that Lopez uncovered corruption and was threatened by prison officials, and that McIntosh thought he had no choice but to escape and return to rescue her.

After the verdict, Lopez in a tearful interview proclaimed anew her love for McIntosh. But juror Geri Pugh of Walnut Creek dismissed Lopez's story as "very hard to believe."

Day for Sentencing

The two convicts' lawyers noted that they may see each other only on one more occasion--at their sentencing July 9.

A helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, McIntosh, 42, was convicted of air piracy and use of a gun in the Nov. 5 escape from the Federal Correctional Institute at Pleasanton. He was accused of hijacking a rented helicopter, forcing the pilot to land, and then flying to the prison to sweep up the waiting Lopez.

Air piracy with use of a gun carries a minimum 25 years to life sentence. He also was convicted of helping Lopez to flee, which has a five-year sentence.

Lopez, 37, was found guilty of escape, which carries a five-year sentence.

"There is no way I could love Ron any more than I do," Lopez said in a telephone interview from her jail cell here. "If I could take all this time from him, I would."

Reaction to Verdict

Lopez said she was "crushed" that the jury took such a short time to reach its verdict and dismiss her claims. As she and McIntosh were led from U.S. District Judge Eugene F. Lynch's courtroom, she said, they reaffirmed their love.

"He told me if he had to do it over, he would do it all again, and we just more or less reaffirmed our commitment to one another," she said. "Four years, 10 years, 20 years, I'll be there for him and he'll be there for me."

McIntosh had less than 18 months to serve before the escape. He had pleaded guilty in 1985 to a parole violation in connection with an $18-million fraud that he helped engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"If he didn't believe Dorinda Lopez was in danger, why did he risk so much?" his lawyer, Judd Iversen, asked in his closing argument Monday. He reiterated his claim that McIntosh suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome because of his service in Vietnam and thought he had to help Lopez much as he rescued comrades in the war.

A Matter of Love

Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Zanides said McIntosh helped Lopez escape because of love and did not want to wait five years until she was eligible for parole on her 50-year sentence for bank robbery in Georgia.

Zanides dismissed Lopez's tale of corruption and death threats by saying she has a "track record" of lying and blaming others for her trouble. Before her robbery conviction in 1982, she was convicted of forgery.

On Oct. 28, McIntosh was supposed to board a bus and travel unescorted from Pleasanton to Lompoc to finish his sentence. Instead, he walked away. In the next few days, he obtained a truck and some cash he had stashed on property north of San Francisco. Using the ruse that he was a developer who wanted to look at land near Pleasanton, he rented a helicopter, then commandeered it.

McIntosh and Lopez were arrested 10 days after the escape in a shopping mall near Sacramento as they were about to pick up a set of wedding rings.

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