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Lapin Acquitted of Kidnaping Her Own 2 Children

Times Staff Writer

A jury Thursday found a sobbing, almost hysterical Orly Lapin not guilty of abducting her two children last year from her former husband, a man painted during the trial by a baby-sitter as a rapist and molester of the couple’s young daughter.

The jury deliberated only six hours over two days before rendering its decision. Orly Lapin, shaking as she awaited the reading of the verdict on two counts of kidnaping, burst into tears when she learned that the jury had sided with her.

“Oh, God. I’m going to get my children!” she cried. The 32-year-old Israeli actress kept talking and gesturing even as Superior Court Judge David H. Brickner was excusing the six-man, six-woman jury.

Still sobbing, Orly Lapin stood with her attorney, John B. Horwitz, as the jury filed out of the courtroom. She reached out to almost every juror and said, “Thank you very much.”

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After the verdict, Horwitz said he will move shortly to gain custody of the children for Orly Lapin.

During the 11-day trial, the mother claimed that she took her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son from her ex-husband, Santa Ana surgeon Ron Lapin, in July, 1987, because she believed that he had molested the girl.

But Lapin and the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kenneth O. Chinn, claimed that she used the allegation as a ploy to take the children and because she wanted a reconciliation.

However, the defense presented Lapin’s former baby-sitter as a surprise witness midway through the three-week trial. She testified on Aug. 23 that Ron Lapin had raped her on several occasions and had impregnated her with a child born two months ago.

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The baby-sitter, who has filed a paternity suit against the surgeon with the Orange County district attorney’s office, also testified that Ron Lapin slept in the same bed with his daughter and molested her.

Horwitz said the surprise witness had been the key to Orly Lapin’s acquittal. “The evidence was overwhelming from the standpoint of the bad character of Ron Lapin,” the defense attorney said. “Any parent would have done the same thing and taken her children. This is an overwhelming victory for us.”

Juror Jeff Solt of Huntington Beach said the testimony of the baby-sitter had been the key to the case, in which the Lapins repeatedly lashed out at each other.

In addition to claiming that he molested their daughter, Orly Lapin claimed that her 48-year-old former husband used drugs and engaged in extramarital affairs. Ron Lapin accused her of hiding the children from him in Palm Springs, threatening to kill them and badgering him for more money.

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“It was a tough case,” Solt said. “I thought both people are a little deceitful. There were a lot of lies told. But the nanny, we thought, told the truth. There was no reason for her to come in here and lie.”

Another juror, Joe Nahay, said Orly Lapin’s version of her conflict with her former husband had been more believable.

“This was a case where the prosecution did not prove anything beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Nahay said.

Chinn and the district attorney’s office had been criticized by the defense for not revealing information about the baby-sitter’s paternity suit against Lapin and her allegations of rape. But Chinn said he did not know about the allegations of molestation against Lapin until the baby-sitter testified.

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After the verdict was announced, the prosecutor said he did not fault the jury for acquitting Orly Lapin.

“It was a tough case. But I don’t have any problem with the jury seeing things differently than we did,” the prosecutor said.

Although Chinn will no longer be “personally involved” with the case, he said the district attorney’s office will conduct an investigation on the baby-sitter’s allegations against Ron Lapin.

“We’ve had certain information brought to us during the trial. We’re going to review that information and take any action that is appropriate,” he said.

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Chinn said trial transcripts will be forwarded to the district attorney’s sexual assault unit for investigation of the rape allegation. The county’s office of child protection services will be given information concerning the child molestation allegations, he added.

Doctor Denies Rape

The physician’s attorney said outside the courtroom Aug. 24 that his client admitted having a sexual relationship with the baby-sitter but denied that he raped her and that he is the father of her child. During his trial testimony, Ron Lapin denied that he had ever molested his daughter. He acknowledged that he had told his former wife that he had sexual relations with the child, but he said he made that statement only to goad her.

Lapin was not present in the courtroom Thursday. A secretary at his office said he would not be available for comment.

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But the surgeon’s attorney, Dennis M. McNerney, said his client was “extremely upset” about the verdict.

“Dr. Lapin is afraid that his wife will see this as a green light to steal the children and take them to Israel at the next opportunity,” McNerney said.

McNerney also said he was “surprised and upset” to learn that Chinn planned to turn trial transcripts over to investigators. He said the baby-sitter’s testimony had been “fabricated.”

“And if the district attorney had believed her story, then they should have moved immediately to dismiss the case against Orly Lapin. I just can’t understand why they would send (the trial transcript) to the sexual assault unit,” McNerney said.

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McNerney added that at least “ethically,” Chinn should have been compelled to move for a dismissal if the baby-sitter’s allegations were considered truthful.

May Face Other Problems

According to a published report, Lapin may face other problems as well. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Lapin is the subject of an inquiry, begun in 1985, by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, the state agency that monitors physicians’ conduct. Linda McCready, external affairs coordinator for the BMQA, said she could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such an investigation.

Orly Lapin, after thanking the jurors, said that her only concern now was “to get my children.”

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“I’m worried about them . . . who’s been taking care of them? How are they? I just want to go to court and get my children as soon as possible,” she said.

Horwitz said he would seek “some type of protective order” for the children immediately from a juvenile court and then ask that Orly Lapin be granted permanent custody of the children.

“We really only have to deal with the civil courts now and get the children back,” Horwitz said.

Orly Lapin has had visitation rights to the children since April, but Horwitz said the present arrangements call for the mother to see them for only one hour once or twice a week under strict supervision.

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Ron Lapin gained prominence as a result of his practice of so-called “bloodless surgery,” which involves surgery without blood transfusions. The practice gained him a following among religious groups, particularly the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose beliefs prohibit the transfusion of human blood. Lapin was the subject of a five-year investigation by state medical authorities that was dropped in 1986.


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