The first person to be sentenced under the state's new felony "stalking" law was ordered jailed Tuesday by a Van Nuys judge who said the man went looking for his ex-girlfriend again as soon as he got free of a drug clinic where he had been permitted to serve time.
Mark D. Bleakley, 30, a burly former carwash manager with a decade-long record of assault and weapons possession charges, faces up to two more years in prison for violating the terms of probation imposed on him for violating the stalking law, which is aimed at deterring repeated harassment of victims.
Sentencing was set for April 8.
Five months ago, Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ashmann sentenced Bleakley to one year in prison for terrorizing former girlfriend Leslie Wein, 26, but gave him credit for the five months he had already spent in jail. The judge said Bleakley could serve the remainder of the year in a locked drug-rehabilitation center because Bleakley's defense had been that his conduct was influenced by taking steroids. He was also placed on five years probation, under orders to leave Wein alone.
Bleakley was sent to the Beit T'Shuvah center near downtown, and "the first time there was a gap in supervision" the judge said, "Mr. Bleakley swooshed right through the gap."
After nearly two hours of testimony, Ashmann ruled that Bleakley violated his probation on Feb. 21 by searching the parking lot of the Mid-Valley Athletic Club in Reseda--where both he and Wein had been members--looking for her car.
Bleakley testified that he was allowed by Beit T'Shuvah officials to pick up his car at a detailing shop across the street, and was checking the window tinting of a Honda in the athletic club lot when confronted by club employees.
Club members testified that Wein drives a Honda similar to the one at which the confrontation occurred.
Bleakley was "trying to track down his victim again," Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Schuit said. But defense attorney Bruce Kaufman contended that Bleakley "really didn't do anything" in the lot.
The defense and prosecution agreed that Bleakley had permission from the drug clinic to fetch his car.
The stalking law, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison, was designed to give police and prosecutors a felony charge to deal with repeated threatening behavior, even when the individual acts are misdemeanors. Without the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 1991, police said there was little they could do about complaints of harassment because each individual incident was considered too minor and time-consuming to investigate.
To support a felony stalking conviction, the law requires prosecutors to prove that a suspect repeatedly threatened a victim or vandalized the victim's property, in violation of a civil court order to stop.
Wein, who did not attend Tuesday's hearing, said Bleakley began to terrorize her shortly after she broke off their two-year relationship in April. She filed 13 police reports in the case, accusing him of twice slashing the tires on her car and twice pouring acid on the vehicle.
Court records also show that he stole her German shepherd from her house, and then left photographs of the dog on cars parked outside her residence. She obtained a court order forbidding Bleakley from annoying or going near her, but a short time later two tires were slashed on a car she had rented.
As she was giving information to police at the scene on May 24, 1991, officers spotted Bleakley nearby, enabling them to charge him with violating the stalking law. He pleaded no contest to a stalking charge, the equivalent of a guilty plea for criminal court purposes.
A state Department of Justice spokesperson said Tuesday that statistics were not available yet on arrests or convictions under the stalking law.
But Sen. Edward R. Royce (D-Fullerton), who wrote the law, said he was aware of five cases in addition to Bleakley's, including cases in Downey, Huntington Park and Orange County.
Royce said he introduced a bill in January to raise the penalty for second offenders from three years to six.
Times staff writer Mark Gladstone in Sacramento contributed to this story.