Appeal Court Orders New Sentencing in Abduction of Officer

Times Staff Writer

An appellate court, finding that the trial judge had erred, ordered Monday that an Arizona man be resentenced for abducting an Irvine police officer at gunpoint. But the court refused to throw out his conviction altogether.

Edward M. Reyna Jr., 46, of Peoria, Ariz., drew a sentence of nearly 13 years following an attempted murder conviction for wrestling a police officer to the ground, grabbing his .357-caliber revolver and trying to kidnap him and take him to Mexico on Sept. 19, 1986.

Officer Found Cocaine

A fugitive from Arizona, Reyna was pulled over along the San Diego Freeway after Irvine Police Officer Thomas Friday observed Reyna’s car weaving in traffic. After the officer searched Reyna and discovered several vials of cocaine, Reyna managed to grab Friday’s gun and hold it, cocked, at the young officer’s head, threatening to kill him.


Friday, who testified that he was ordered at gunpoint to drive Reyna to Mexico, was able to bring the vehicle to a screeching halt and then knock the gun away from Reyna, wrestling him out of the car. Another officer, who arrived on the scene as the pair struggled beside the roadway, then aided in the arrest.

Friday, who was 26 at the time of the incident and was serving only his second week alone on patrol, was lauded for heroics that later were dramatized in police training films. But the incident took its toll emotionally. Friday took a medical leave from the force because of mental stress. He has not returned to the job.

Reyna appealed his conviction for attempted murder, maintaining that Friday discovered the vials of cocaine through an unlawful search. Reyna also complained that his attorney was unfairly prevented from trying to discredit Friday’s testimony by questioning him during a preliminary hearing about what effect the attack had had on the officer’s career.

But the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana, in its decision released Monday, rejected both those claims as it upheld Reyna’s conviction.

The justices did, however, find fault with Reyna’s sentencing.

Two years ago, Superior Court Judge James K. Turner, citing Reyna’s history of criminal convictions, ordered him to serve 12 years and 8 months in prison for attempted murder, kidnaping and the use of a gun.

But the appellate court on Monday ruled that Reyna essentially faced a double jeopardy. It faulted Turner for citing Reyna’s use of a gun both in imposing the maximum possible sentence for attempted murder, and in adding an extra 2 years to his total sentence for using a gun.

Reyna now must be resentenced. But Mathew Vallance, who prosecuted the case, said he expects Reyna to receive the same sentence when he returns to Superior Court. Vallance said other factors in the incident besides Reyna’s use of a gun could be considered in imposing the maximum cumulative penalty.

“My opinion (in February, 1987) was that he should have gotten the maximum sentence, and that remains the same today,” said Vallance, who is now in private practice. “I wish the judge could have given him more than he got.”

‘This Guy Is Dangerous’

Lt. Michael White of the Irvine Police Department, which supported Judge Turner’s imposition of the maximum sentence, said the appellate ruling was a disappointment. “This guy is dangerous, and he should be put away for a long time,” White said.

Friday could not be reached for comment after the ruling.

In September, 1987, the city of Irvine sued the manufacturer of the Police Department’s holsters, Hoyt Holster Co. of Costa Mesa, charging that the company had reneged on its promise to provide “unequaled safety” for officers. The suit is pending in Orange County Superior Court.