VENTURA : Accusers' Credibility Questioned at Trial

Closing arguments in the case of a Ventura lawyer accused of giving LSD to a 17-year-old office worker focused on the credibility of his two young accusers.

Ventura County Superior Court jurors are scheduled to begin deliberations today in the trial of Douglas Andrew Palaschak, 42, who is accused of possession of LSD, furnishing LSD to a minor and conspiracy.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kim George Gibbons told jurors to ignore the fact that Jessica Jobin had been charged with possession of LSD, and Melissa Schwentner is on juvenile probation.

"The defendant's crimes are worse because he's a lawyer and because he's a mature, intelligent man who victimized these young girls," Gibbons said of Palaschak. Palaschak and Jobin, who was his secretary at the time, were arrested May 9, 1991, after Schwentner, then 17, informed police about an LSD party at the attorney's office.

Defense attorney Robert I. Schwartz sought to discredit the young women. He said Jobin, who was 18 at the time of the arrests, was not a credible witness because she furnished the LSD to Schwentner, who also worked in the office, and has changed her story about how she got the drug.

"The story is ridiculous," Schwartz said. "It's totally bogus."

Last week, Jobin testified that Palaschak asked her to obtain some LSD for him, and even loaned his car to her so she could fetch the drugs. Jobin said she drove to a Ventura Avenue house where Grateful Dead fans gather and spotted a man who agreed to give her the drugs outside a nearby shop. There, he tossed $250 to $500 worth of LSD into the car without waiting to be paid, Jobin had said.

Jobin testified that although Palaschak repeatedly offered LSD to Schwentner, she was the one who gave two tabs of the hallucinogen to her co-worker. The charge against Palaschak was based on the alleged offer.

Schwartz also contended that Schwentner is not believable because she was angry with Palaschak after he failed to pay her as promised. Schwentner's statements to police officers and a grand jury contain conflicting testimony, especially on whether Palaschak offered her LSD, according to the defense. If convicted, Palaschak faces a maximum sentence of nine years in state prison.

The attorney, who is free on $5,000 bail, continues to operate a one-lawyer office in Ventura that concentrates on bankruptcy, drug and sex offenses and personal-injury cases.

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