City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Thursday that she suffered permanent damage to her voice when her throat was slashed last May and said she remains too frightened to sleep through the night.
"It was a tough experience to be awakened in the middle of the night by somebody in the middle of my house," Galanter said as testimony began in the trial of her admitted assailant, Mark Allen Olds, 28, who lived across the street from her in Venice.
"And it's been hard to be confident that it won't happen again," she said.
Dabbing frequently at her eyes as she described the pre-dawn attack in her bedroom, Galanter, who was hospitalized for 56 days, said she faces one more operation that could make her voice louder.
But since one vocal chord is paralyzed and cannot be repaired, her voice "will always be hoarse, and it will always be a strain to speak," she testified.
Galanter, 46, who won election to the City Council while in the hospital, showed the jury what she described as a partially atrophied tongue. In addition, she said, a six-inch stab wound under her ear left her with atrophied muscles in her shoulder, she has difficulty swallowing and one spot on her neck is numb.
Olds, who is expected to take the stand Monday, is accused of attempted murder and burglary based on fingerprints found in Galanter's home and his own statement to police.
His attorney, James M. Epstein, said outside the courtroom that he will try to show that Olds, while under the influence of drugs, entered Galanter's home to commit a burglary but panicked and attacked her when she began screaming.
Galanter testified that she could find nothing missing from her home.
Epstein said he will try to persuade the jury that his client did not intend to kill the councilwoman--a necessary condition for an attempted murder conviction.
Asked under direct examination whether she thought her assailant intended to kill her, Galanter replied, "Yes. I still think so."
She showed irritation during cross-examination when Epstein challenged her assertion that she remained silent throughout the attack, screaming only afterward when she was able to reach an alarm button by her bed.
Epstein said Galanter's neighbors will testify that they heard her scream well before the alarm was sounded. The timing is important to persuade the jury that the screaming could have occurred before the attack, the lawyer explained.
The prosecution will try to show that Olds not only acted with intent but also with "premeditation and deliberation," a finding that could result in a life sentence. Otherwise, he faces a maximum of 12 years in prison.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dale Davidson, who waived his right to make an opening statement in the trial, declined to discuss the specifics of the case. But he said, "The way we usually show premeditation is that someone takes a weapon along and then they use it."
Epstein told reporters that his client would have pleaded guilty to attempted murder if the prosecution had been willing to drop the premeditation allegation.
"It think it's outrageous that this case is going to trial," Epstein said. "The only reason that the people would not dismiss, in my opinion, the allegation of premeditation and deliberation is because of who Ruth Galanter is."