Masters Waives Right to Jury Trial : Courts: Man who killed tagger faces misdemeanor counts for allegedly concealing weapon and keeping it loaded.
After losing on two key motions in pretrial arguments on Friday, William Masters, who last January shot and killed a graffiti tagger whom he said threatened him, waived his right to a jury trial.
Masters, charged with carrying a concealed and loaded weapon but not with murder or manslaughter, had asked that the charges against him be dismissed on the grounds that California’s concealed weapons law is unconstitutional. He had also asked that he be allowed to contest the charges based on self-defense or by claiming that he concealed the weapon out of necessity.
By carrying the weapon, “Mr. Masters had the means to save his own life,” defense attorney C. D. Michel said. “If he did not have the means to save his own life he would be dead right now.”
The 35 year-old Masters shot and killed 18-year-old Cesar Rene Arce under a freeway overpass in Sun Valley. He also shot and wounded David Hillo, 20, now serving time for painting graffiti and for violating parole on an earlier graffiti charge.
Michel argued that the case should be dismissed because the city of Los Angeles should have granted Masters a permit to carry such a weapon. Since the city has issued very few concealed weapon permits, he argued, it was unfair and unconstitutional to accuse Masters of a crime for carrying a weapon.
Van Nuys Municipal Judge Lloyd Nash denied the motion, saying Masters could have sued the city to obtain a permit, as others had done. And, he said, there was no evidence that Masters had tried to obtain a permit through regular channels.
Nash also denied Michel’s request to put on a self-defense argument.
“This means I really can’t say anything,” Michel said in an interview. “The prosecution will say that they found a gun and a dead body and I won’t be able to talk about how [the body] got there.”
Michel said Masters would spend the weekend deciding whether to accept a plea bargain or continue with a trial in front of Judge Nash. Masters is charged with two misdemeanor counts, one for allegedly concealing his weapon and one for keeping it loaded.
Michel said he was leaning toward trial by the judge because he wants to preserve the right of appeal on broader issues concerning weapons.
Deputy City Atty. George Schell said the city would accept a guilty plea on the charge of carrying a loaded weapon, which carries a penalty of one year in jail.
Schell said in the event of a plea bargain, Masters probably would serve a combination of jail time and probation. He would not confirm earlier reports that the prosecution had offered a sentence of 90 days other than to say, “I heard that too.”
Masters, who was chastised twice by Nash during Friday’s proceedings for interrupting the judge and attorneys to speak, sat quietly for most of the pretrial hearing.
He listened with his head cocked and a half-frown on his face as Michel argued that the 35-year-old actor shot the two men in self-defense after Arce threatened him with a screwdriver, asked for his wallet and tried to follow him.
The case has generated tremendous interest in the community, with some calling Masters a racist vigilante and others supporting his actions.