Mark Allen Olds, a former gang member with a long history of drug arrests, received the maximum sentence of 14 years and 4 months in prison Wednesday for brutally slashing the throat of Ruth Galanter, now a city councilwoman, during a burglary of her Venice home.
Olds' attorney, James M. Epstein, offered an apology in court to Galanter on behalf of his client. "Mr. Olds has asked me to tell Ms. Galanter how sorry he is," said Epstein, adding that Olds understood she could not forgive him.
A probation report for Olds, which included an interview with Galanter, said the councilwoman "feels the defendant tried to kill her and does not feel the sentence given him is long enough."
'I Didn't Deserve Attack'
But Galanter did not recommend a specific sentence for Olds when she addressed Superior Court Judge Raymond Mireles on Wednesday. "I didn't do anything to deserve such an attack and I'm going to carry a life sentence for this," Galanter said in a barely audible whisper. Her vocal cords were permanently damaged in the attack.
On Nov. 16, a jury found Olds guilty of first-degree burglary and second-degree attempted murder involving great bodily injury and the use of a knife. The jury acquitted Olds of the more serious charge of attempted murder with premeditation, which could have carried a life sentence.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dale A. Davidson, who prosecuted the case, said afterward, "I'm happy he got 14 years and 4 months because I think he ought to be removed from the community for as long as possible."
But Epstein said that, with time off for good behavior and other considerations, Olds probably will serve about 6 1/2 years.
Olds, 28, wearing a blue jail uniform, stood silently throughout the brief proceedings, his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes downcast.
The probation report on Olds described him as a one-time member of the Venice 13 gang who was introduced to heroin use at age 13, was a "heavy" user by 15 and as an adult was unable to hold a steady job. His drug use continued until hours before the Galanter attack.
"This defendant has no insight into his behavior," said the report. "He blames his problems on drug use/abuse; however, he has never once shown the initiative or desire to change his behavior. . . . He has clearly demonstrated there is a dark side to his personality that presents a very real and dangerous threat to the community."
The report said there were no mitigating circumstances for the May 6 assault at Galanter's home and recommended the maximum possible sentence. Judge Mireles agreed and ordered the 14-year, 4-month term.
Olds, who lived across the street from Galanter, was convicted of entering her home just before dawn to commit burglary. He slashed her throat twice with a four-inch knife when she awakened and began screaming. Neighbors, roused by the screams and a burglar alarm that she triggered, rushed to her aid.
56 Days in Hospital
Galanter spent 56 days in the hospital and underwent surgery for serious wounds to her arteries and vocal cords. She is left with a permanently husky whisper and faces more surgery.
While hospitalized, Galanter, 46, an advocate of slow-growth development policies, defeated City Council President Pat Russell in a strenuously contested campaign for the council.
According to Olds' probation report, Galanter "has experienced a living nightmare and will forever bear the physical and emotional scars of a night of horror."
Despite continuing protection outside her home at night from the volunteer Los Angeles Police Protective League, the report said the attack has "caused her to wonder if her life still may be in jeopardy from others and there remains some uncertainty as to whether the attack was planned."
In the three days between the attack and the time that Olds turned himself in to police, some of Galanter's friends and supporters speculated that developers who feared her election might have initiated the assault.
Olds told probation officials that Galanter's home was the first he ever attempted to burglarize and he did it because he needed money to support his daughter and girlfriend.
In court, Epstein turned to Galanter and said Olds wanted her to know that "nobody hired me" and she has no reason to fear him when he is released from prison.