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Ex-Talk Show Host Gets Probation in Hit-Run

Former radio talk show host Ira Fistell was fined $2,500 and placed on three years’ probation Wednesday in Los Angeles after pleading no contest to misdemeanor hit-and-run charges stemming from a car crash that killed a 16-year-old girl.

Fistell, 54, who could have been sentenced to up to a year in County Jail, also was ordered to perform 480 hours of community service.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the case against Fistell’s wife, Tonda, who had faced the same charges.

The Fistells’ attorney, Robert Schwartz, said he thought the disposition of the case was appropriate. “Mr. Fistell and I can live with the sentence,” Schwartz said.

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According to police, Josh DeJean, 19, was speeding down Venice Boulevard in the Wilshire district on Feb. 16 when his car slammed into an automobile driven by Fistell, who was waiting to make a left turn. DeJean’s passenger, Janna Banks, died in the crash.

Fistell left the scene about 30 minutes later to go to the KABC radio station for his 11 p.m. broadcast.

Police agreed that Fistell was not at fault in the accident--DeJean was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter. But Fistell’s troubles began to mount when he denied to police that he had been driving and his wife--who was not even in the car--claimed initially that she had been behind the wheel, although she later changed her story.

Prosecutor John Morris accused the talk show host of making “a cold, calculated decision to mislead everyone,” but Municipal Judge Elva Soper eventually reduced felony charges against the Fistells to misdemeanors.

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A jury acquitted DeJean of the manslaughter charges against him.

Two months ago, KABC fired Fistell. The station said the firing was not related to the hit-and-run charges.


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