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Greenberger Draws Life Without Parole for ‘Cotton Club’ Slaying : Court: Judge says she acted with sophistication and premeditation in planning the kidnaping that led to theater entrepreneur’s murder.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Karen (Lanie) Greenberger, convicted of kidnaping and second-degree murder in the so-called “Cotton Club” killing of theatrical entrepreneur Roy Radin, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe rejected defense motions that would have allowed for parole, saying that the silver-haired former drug dealer acted with “sophistication” and “premeditation” in planning the 1983 abduction that led to Radin’s death.

“I find it hard to believe--in fact, impossible to believe--that Mrs. Greenberger thought Mr. Radin was just going for a ride,” Rappe said, alluding to testimony about the last time Radin was seen alive. A witness at last year’s trial said Greenberger stepped from Radin’s limousine just before Alex Marti and William Mentzer--who were convicted of the slaying--jumped in.

“The premeditation of the kidnaping, and what was going to happen (after it), is clear,” Rappe said. “The potential for great violence loomed large.”

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Greenberger’s attorneys, who expressed disappointment over the ruling, immediately filed an appeal of her conviction and sentence.

The 43-year-old Greenberger, one of four people convicted in Radin’s death, was accused of masterminding the slaying because she feared that Radin was negotiating to cut her out of profits from the movie “The Cotton Club,” a film about a Harlem speak-easy that was a box-office flop.

Radin’s body was found in a dry creek bed near Gorman about a month after his disappearance. He had been shot 13 times and a stick of dynamite had been ignited in his mouth.

During the yearlong trial, Greenberger’s attorneys argued that she was framed, and prosecutors were not able to clearly show that she had hired others to kill Radin. Marti, 30, was convicted of first-degree murder for financial gain and has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after a jury recommended against the death penalty.

Mentzer, 42, was also convicted of first-degree murder for financial gain and is expected to receive the same life-without-parole sentence in April after testifying for prosecutors in a separate murder-for-hire case.

The fourth “Cotton Club” defendant, limousine driver Robert Lowe, 44, awaits sentencing for second-degree murder and kidnaping in connection with Radin’s death and is in court facing first-degree murder charges in a separate killing a year later, said Deputy Dist. Atty. David Conn.

In asking that Greenberger be offered a chance of parole, her attorneys cited her difficult past as an abused child who was vulnerable to being used by men. Attorney Marcia Morrissey argued that she should not be handed the same sentence as the killers, whom the jury found to be “more culpable” for the crime.

“Lanie Greenberger was not the mastermind of the case,” Morrissey said. “She did not plan the death of Roy Radin. She did not pay for the death of Roy Radin. . . . We ask the court to grant Mrs. Greenberger a hope--not a promise--that she may someday be returned to society.”

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However, Conn argued that a sentence allowing for parole would represent “extraordinary leniency” for someone who “knew exactly what she was doing” in leaving Radin in the hands of the abductors.

Radin’s sister, Kate, who appeared in court Friday to describe how family members had been affected by the killing, told Rappe that her mother never recovered from the grief. “She died with stress-related disease three years after Roy,” Kate Radin said. “The doctors wondered why she did not respond to treatment, why she had no will to live anymore.”

Looking frequently at Greenberger, the sister concluded: “There was so much pain and hatred started by one woman’s greed. Your honor, I plead (for a) maximum sentence so she will never be able to kill again.”

In an unusual aftermath to the sentencing, Conn argued that Greenberger should be forced to repay the county $488,056 in attorneys’ fees and investigative costs after claiming to be indigent to qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. Conn presented documents showing that Greenberger had received about $640,000 last year from her late husband’s estate, much of which was quickly transferred to a bank account in Denver.

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However, Edward Shohat, a private attorney who joined Morrissey in representing the defendant, called the transfers necessary to satisfy liens against Greenberger’s property.

A March 6 hearing date was set to explore Greenberger’s financial assets.


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