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SANTA ANA : Maniscalco Judge Delays Sentencing

The case of People vs. Thomas F. Maniscalco, Orange County’s longest-running criminal case, will go on a little longer.

On Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kathleen E. O’Leary reluctantly postponed sentencing for the convicted triple murderer but accused the defense of seeking out the kind of preferential handling that is rarely granted in murder cases.

Maniscalco’s defense team recently persuaded Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown, who has no connection to the case, to hire a private consultant--at public expense--to prepare a report on Maniscalco in preparation for his sentencing.

The report would in many ways duplicate the work already done by the county Probation Department, whose job it is to prepare sentencing reports for all convicted murderers, the judge and prosecutor agreed.

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“I’m very concerned Mr. Maniscalco is receiving what appears to be special treatment,” O’Leary said.

Maniscalco, a Westminster attorney who co-founded the Hessians motorcycle gang, was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder in the slayings of Richard (Rabbit) Rizzone, 36; Rizzone’s bodyguard, Thomas Monahan, 28, and Rizzone’s girlfriend, Rena Miley, 19. Miley was also raped.

The three were murdered in a Westminster ranch home on Memorial Day, 1980. But Maniscalco was not arrested until March 15, 1984.

Prosecutors said Maniscalco plotted the killings in a dispute over counterfeit money and drug profits skimmed from his gang. The defense said Maniscalco has been framed for the murders.

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His conviction came 10 years to the day after his arrest, following a torturous trip through the legal system marked by two trials and hundreds of legal motions and delays.

On Friday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick King argued against any further delays and urged the judge to go forward with the sentencing. He noted that Gary Miley, a retired Los Alamitos police officer whose daughter was killed, had attended the sentencing hearing to make a statement.

“It’s time to put finality to this case,” King said.

But O’Leary questioned whether she could overrule a fellow judge with equal jurisdiction and decided to postpone the hearing until June 24 out of concern that the issue could be raised on appeal.

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O’Leary said Friday she could not understand the arrangement behind the private sentencing report.

“The logic of that escapes me,” she said.

But defense attorney Curt Livesay said he was only doing his job to ensure that his client receives proper representation.

“I would have done it with any client,” Livesay said.

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Livesay said the report was “critical” because it could help determine where Maniscalco would be placed in the state prison system and when--if ever--he might be eligible for parole. The judge replied that the same is true of all murder defendants facing sentencing, and probation department reports suffice for the vast majority of those cases.

“The propriety of what occurred is not something I’m going to waste a lot more time on,” O’Leary said.


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