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Fleiss Lawyers Claim Misconduct by D.A. : Courts: Defense charges that prosecutors’ remarks intimidated jurors. District attorney’s spokeswoman says actions were completely proper.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lawyers for convicted Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss have once again requested a new trial, alleging prosecutorial misconduct that included witness intimidation.

“The district attorney’s office’s overwhelming desire to maintain a conviction against Ms. Fleiss has caused them to cross the line of appropriate prosecutorial behavior,” said a memorandum filed by the defense in Los Angeles Superior Court and made public Thursday.

Fleiss, 28, was convicted last month on charges of pandering and running a high-class call girl ring for Los Angeles’ rich and famous. On Dec. 13, her lawyers filed their first motion for a new trial, saying that five jurors had come forward and, in sworn statements, alleged that jury misconduct had occurred during the steamy trial. Jurors said they had discussed the case with one another outside the courtroom.

A week later, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal newspaper, reported that the district attorney’s office was considering whether to ask the Fleiss case judge, Judith Champagne, to hold the five jurors in contempt or with violating a judge’s orders by not following jury instructions.

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The article was based on comments by Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank Sundstedt, who was not a member of the Fleiss prosecution team.

The defense contends that as a result of the Dec. 20 article, the five jurors have ceased cooperating with Fleiss attorneys because they are afraid that they will be prosecuted for their actions.

Sundstedt and Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti refused to return calls to their offices seeking comment.

District attorney’s office spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the five jurors in the Fleiss case were not under investigation.

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“Our actions were totally proper in this case,” Gibbons said.

But according to Fleiss attorney Donald Marks, the article in the Journal had a chilling effect on the five jurors, three of whom provided declarations saying that they had decided they would no longer provide Fleiss’ legal team with additional statements about how misconduct might have occurred during their deliberations.

According to their declarations, the jurors expressed concern about their legal vulnerability after defense lawyers provided them with copies of the Journal article.

Legal experts were skeptical of Marks’ strategy.

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“It’s creative but a problematic tactic,” said Loyola Law school professor Laurie Levenson. “I think it’s dubious whether this will be convincing to a judge.” A hearing on the motions for a new trial is scheduled for Jan. 23.


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