The surprise introduction in court Tuesday of a computer-enhanced video led one of the lesser defendants in the Reginald O. Denny beating case to plead guilty to all charges against him.
Gary Williams, accused of rifling through Denny's empty pockets as the trucker lay gravely injured on the street at the start of the Los Angeles riots, pleaded guilty to the attempted grand theft of Denny and the robbery and assault of another motorist. Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Kamins has agreed to sentence Williams to three years in prison in exchange for the pleas.
Williams, 34, could have been sentenced to a maximum of six years and four months in prison had he gone through with his jury trial, scheduled to start Tuesday.
That had been his intention until he and his lawyer, minutes before jury selection was to begin, watched the 90-second video, which was computer-enhanced for the prosecution. Deputy Dist. Atty. Carol Najera said a group of scientists produced the state-of-the-art video for free.
Defense attorney Arlene Binder later acknowledged that a man shown in the tape leaning over Denny in one scene and over Fidel Lopez, a second downed motorist, in another scene looks "very, very much" like Williams, including his clothing and facial hair.
Williams had admitted that he was the person seen going through Denny's pockets, but Binder had been prepared to present her own video enhancement to show that he was not the person who attacked Lopez.
But she conceded that the prosecution's tape was impressive and damaging to her case.
"They took a tape that was very blurred and made it very clear," Binder said. "It doesn't necessarily prove the case, but it certainly may have had an influence on the jury, and my client thought it in his best interest to accept the settlement."
Najera said she has no doubt that both frames of the enhanced tape show Williams.
"He pleaded guilty, didn't he?" she said. "I think he pleaded guilty because the whole issue was identity, and that issue was squelched."
Norman Perle, a recording expert who worked for the defense and examined the computer-enhanced video in court Tuesday, said the process used to produce it is "very new, very laborious and very effective."
Williams is one of seven men accused of taking part in the attacks on Denny and several other motorists at Florence and Normandie avenues on April 29, 1992.
Williams is the third defendant to plead guilty to various charges. Another, Lance Jerome Parker, is waiting for legal issues in his case to be resolved before he goes to trial.
The consolidated trial of the three primary defendants--Damian Monroe Williams (no relation to Gary), Henry Keith Watson and Antoine Eugene Miller--is scheduled for April 12. They could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison if convicted of the attempted murder of Denny and other charges.
Family members and supporters have packed court hearings involving Damian Williams, Watson and Miller. By contrast, only one member of the support group showed up for what was to be the start of Gary Williams' trial. Sentencing is scheduled for March 26.