Lawyers in the trial of Dr. Thomas A. Gionis delivered their closing arguments Wednesday, differing sharply about the importance of defense evidence that the doctor was with a client at a time when the prosecution contends that he was on the phone ordering the assault of his ex-wife, Aissa Wayne.
The three-week trial has been filled with dramatic testimony about the attack on Wayne, the 34-year-old daughter of the late actor John Wayne.
The closing arguments centered on key details about Gionis’ alleged role in the attack. “I never told you that the phone records would prove who was on the telephone,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans told the jury.
“But the calls were made to telephones in the doctor’s control. And the pattern of telephone calls before and after the assault tells you he knows what’s going on.”
Gionis, 37, an orthopedic surgeon, faces eight felony counts in the Oct. 3, 1988, assault on Wayne, and her former boyfriend, financier Roger W. Luby, in the garage of Luby’s Newport Beach estate. Both were beat up by two gunmen and Luby’s Achilles’ tendon was cut with a knife. They were then left tied up.
Prosecutors allege that Gionis and Wayne were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their daughter, who was almost 2 years old at the time. When Wayne violated a court order and took the little girl to Arizona on a vacation, prosecutors contend, Gionis decided to “teach her a lesson.”
The two men who carried out the assault were hired by Dan Gal, a Century City private detective hired by Gionis to conduct surveillance on Wayne in preparation for a court trial on the custody dispute.
Prosecutors claim that Gionis ordered the assault through Gal. However, the defense claims that Gal became upset with Wayne--for making an obscene gesture at him and avoiding him by running off to Arizona with the child--and decided on his own to teach her a lesson.
The key prosecution witness against Gionis was Jeffrey K. Bouey, one of those who carried out the assault.
Bouey testified that shortly before the attack, Gal was on his car phone talking animatedly while Gal, Bouey and another assailant were spying on Wayne at Luby’s home. When Gal got off the phone, Bouey quoted him as saying: “That was the client. He’s upset. He wants it done now because he’s got a court date coming up soon.”
Phone company records show three calls from Gal’s car phone at that time--two to Gionis’ limousine and a third to Gionis’ house in Pomona.
But the defense presented considerable evidence, unchallenged by prosecutors, that Gionis was neither in his limousine nor at his Pomona home when any of those calls came in from Gal. He was in his office in Upland, treating a patient for back surgery, the patient and his wife both testified.
John D. Barnett, Gionis’ attorney, told jurors Wednesday that the doctor’s uncontested alibi for the time of those phone calls shows that Bouey or Gal, or both, are liars.
“Dr. Gionis is in the clear,” Barnett told the jurors. “There isn’t a question that he is innocent.” Later he added: “This isn’t hard, folks. The prosecution doesn’t have a case. This is simple stuff.”
Prosecutor Evans countered that Bouey’s statement about the phone call is not diminished by the doctor’s alibi because other telephone records show a flurry of calls that day between phones owned by Gal and Gionis. Many of those calls were coming to Gal from Gionis’ limousine, which prosecutor Evans indicated could have been made on the doctor’s behalf.
Evans pointed to other evidence:
* Finance records show a dramatic increase in payments from Gionis to Gal immediately before the time Bouey claims that he and his best friend, Jerrel Hintergardt, agreed to carry out the assault.
* Bouey testified that Gal drew a floor plan of the interior of Wayne’s home, even showing where he and Hintergardt could get into the house through louvered doors. Because Gal had never been inside the Wayne home, that floor plan had to come from Gionis, prosecutors say.
Defense attorney Barnett contends that the floor plan was only to help Gal in conducting surveillance.
“Dr. Gionis is a doctor. He’s not a private investigator,” Barnett told the jurors. “If this is what Gal tells him he needs, then he gives it to him. He doesn’t know.”
But prosecutor Evans countered: “You don’t need a floor plan to conduct surveillance from outside the house. You don’t need to know where the weakest point of entry is.”
* Evans contended the key to the case is Gionis’ motive.
“This was a bitter, bitter custody fight,” Evans said. “She runs off to Sedona (Arizona) with the daughter. And what does Gionis do? He runs down to the Newport Beach Police Department and files a crime report on her. He wants to put Momma in jail.”
Gal, on the other hand, had no motive for hurting Wayne on his own because “he’s making a good living by sitting out in front of her house conducting surveillance on her,” Evans said.
“He’s going to cut off the goose that lays the golden egg? No way,” the prosecutor told the jurors.
But Barnett offered evidence during the defense portion of the case that Gal sees himself as a James Bond figure who once admitted to a police officer that he forged a $4,000 check in a case that was ultimately dismissed. Then, Gal later denied any wrongdoing in an application for a private investigator’s license.
“Dan Gal is a thief, a liar, and a perjurer,” Barnett said. “He’s a little off-center. When you see that, you do have a knothead, just the kind of crazy guy who would conduct the daylight attack in the way this was done.”
Hintergardt, who admitted slashing Luby’s ankle, is serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of the assault at a separate trial. Bouey is awaiting trial but is expected to be allowed to plea bargain.
Gal, also awaiting trial, has cooperated with authorities and admitted his role. But Evans did not use him as a witness at either the Hintergardt or Gionis trials. Prosecutors did not want to plea-bargain with him because of his key role in the assault.
Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard is scheduled to instruct the jurors today. They are expected to deliberate the rest of the day, and then not return until Monday if no verdict is reached.