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Defendant Admits He Led Attack on John Wayne Daughter

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a dramatic turnaround, a Burbank man admitted on the witness stand Thursday that he led an attack on John Wayne’s daughter and her former boyfriend in Newport Beach 19 months ago.

Jerrel Lee Hintergardt, 38, denied in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana, however, that he personally beat up Aissa Wayne. He also denied prosecutors’ claims that the attack was ordered by Wayne’s ex-husband, Dr. Thomas A. Gionis, who was going through a bitter custody fight with her at the time over their 2-year-old daughter. Gionis’ trial on similar assault charges in the attack is scheduled to begin in June.

Hintergardt, who is standing trial on eight felony counts related to the 1988 attack on Wayne and her then-boyfriend, Roger W. Luby, admitted that he and another man held Wayne and Luby at gunpoint, forced them to the ground and handcuffed them. He also admitted he struck Luby hard enough to knock him down and then slashed his right Achilles’ tendon with a knife.

Hintergardt said he was told by O. Daniel Gal, the private investigator who hired him and his accomplice, that it was Luby who was the target--not Wayne.

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“I never meant for anyone to get hurt,” Hintergardt testified. “But things just got out of control.”

Hintergardt’s admission that he was involved in the attack on Wayne and Luby stunned prosecutors and investigators in the case. Even Hintergardt’s own lawyer, Todd A. Landgren, had not heard the confession until 15 minutes before his client’s trial was scheduled to resume Thursday morning, Landgren said.

“It was certainly a shock,” Landgren said. “I wish he had said this a year ago. He hasn’t left me much time to prepare for this.”

Wayne, 34, and Luby, 54, both took the witness stand during Hintergardt’s trial this week and identified him as the leader of the two men who approached them with guns as they pulled a car into the garage of Luby’s gated estate in Corona del Mar just before noon on Oct. 3, 1988. Both testified that it was Hintergardt who smashed their faces into the concrete.

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The other gunman, Jeffrey K. Bouey, who is cooperating with authorities, corroborated for jurors virtually every detail of what the victims testified had happened.


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