Escapee to Escape Virginia Prosecution

Times Staff Writer

Vincent Pelliccia will not be prosecuted for escaping from a Virginia chain gang 41 years ago, authorities in that state said Monday, but he still might have to serve time there.

Virginia Commonwealth Atty. Aubrey M. Davis Jr. said no action will be taken on the escape, which normally would call for prosecution as a separate offense, because no witnesses to the escape can be found.

"We were not able to locate the original witnesses who had custody of him," said Davis, who is Virginia's chief prosecutor. "It would have been a waste of time to try to prosecute."

Pelliccia, 62, of Newhall remains in Los Angeles County Jail, however, awaiting extradition by Virginia authorities, who contend that he still owes the state nine years.

Pelliccia walked away from a chain gang in 1946, after serving just four months of a 10-year sentence for "store-breaking." He later moved to California, where he raised a family and built a career as a movie studio electrician.

The decision not to charge Pelliccia with escape "may make him bailable," said his attorney, Mark A. Gottesman, who has fought for Pelliccia's release since his arrest on Aug. 4. Under California law, fugitives wanted for escape are not eligible for bail.

A bail hearing is scheduled Wednesday before Los Angeles Municipal Judge Glenette Blackwell.

Gottesman said he is still having "meaningful negotiations" with Virginia officials over what time, if any, Pelliccia would have to serve in Virginia.

Preparing Paper Work

But at this point, Virginia Department of Corrections officials are preparing the paper work for Gov. Gerald Baliles to begin extradition proceedings.

"From the department's perspective, any time an escapee owes us time we pursue him," said Duncan Brogan, a spokesman for the department. Brogan said Baliles has several options, including extradition of Pelliccia to serve his remaining sentence, extradition followed by a pardon or a pardon without forcing Pelliccia to return to Virginia.

Baliles, who is out of town this week, has no information about the case and has not indicated what he will do, spokeswoman Jennifer Mullins said.

Pelliccia was convicted of three counts of store-breaking in Norfolk, Va., in 1945 when he was 19 and just out of the Army. He escaped May 26, 1946, from a road camp in South Hill, Va., records show. He cut through his shackles and a wire fence surrounding the camp and walked away in the middle of the day.

In a recent interview, Pelliccia said that during his years of freedom he did not feel like a hunted criminal. Except for two traffic tickets, his record was clean.

He was arrested after a computer check on Pelliccia's license revealed the 41-year-old warrant for his arrest.

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