A Brentwood man accused of selling cocaine to the late son of actor Carroll O’Connor was convicted Thursday on two felony drug counts, ending a months-long crusade by O’Connor to see the man prosecuted.
Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Richard Neidorf found Harry Thomas Perzigian, 40, guilty of possessing and furnishing cocaine.
Perzigian will be sentenced Feb. 15 and could face up to a year in County Jail.
O’Connor, 71, blamed Perzigian for the March 28, 1995, suicide of his 32-year-old son, Hugh, who struggled unsuccessfully for several years to overcome a cocaine addiction.
The elder O’Connor appeared in court Wednesday, the first day of the trial, and described Perzigian and other alleged drug dealers as “reptiles on the street.” O’Connor missed court Thursday because his wife was ill, but afterward he said that justice had been served.
“He sure was guilty,” O’Connor said of Perzigian during a news conference after the trial. “I think the judge was right.”
Perzigian, who is free on $10,000 bail, sat quietly as the judge rendered his verdict just moments after closing arguments in the nonjury trial.
Perzigian did not comment afterward, but his attorney, Bradley W. Brunon, accused O’Connor of “demonizing” his client.
Brunon also argued that O’Connor’s fame may have played a role in the decision to prosecute Perzigian.
“This case has been pursued with a particular vigor because of Mr. O’Connor’s presence,” Brunon said.
“I don’t think they would have proceeded on it without the pressure from O’Connor.”
The judge said he was swayed by the testimony of several of Hugh O’Connor’s friends, who told the court that they had driven O’Connor on several occasions to Perzigian’s Brentwood condominium to buy drugs.
One friend, Kevin McConnell, testified that he had been to the Brentwood building about 15 times over six years. He said he would wait outside while O’Connor ran inside with cash.
Frederick W. Marx, 30, who came forward Thursday after seeing news accounts of the trial, also testified that he watched Perzigian sell a “bindle of cocaine” to O’Connor on one occasion at Perzigian’s condominium.
In his closing argument Thursday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Barshop said that “for a lengthy period of time, Mr. Perzigian was both furnishing drugs and selling drugs to Hugh O’Connor.”
A day after Hugh O’Connor shot himself in the head in March, his father helped lead police to Perzigian. O’Connor told police Perzigian had supplied his son with drugs.
Police searched Perzigian’s residence and said they discovered a scale, sifters and chemicals used to cut cocaine, leading to the charge of possession of cocaine for sale.
But Neidorf reduced that charge to simple possession, saying that the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Perzigian possessed the cocaine for the purpose of selling it.
During Thursday’s testimony, Perzigian’s girlfriend, Samantha Polk, told the court that Perzigian had used cocaine but that she never saw him sell drugs to O’Connor.
Polk said that Perzigian was distraught when he learned that his friend had killed himself.
“Harry was going on and on, crying about Hugh,” she said.
But Carroll O’Connor had few kind words for Perzigian on Thursday. Last year, the veteran actor publicly blamed Perzigian for his son’s death.
And he took the opportunity after Perzigian’s conviction to encourage others to help police prevent “reptiles crawling around the neighborhood.”
O’Connor, known for his television roles as Archie Bunker and as the police chief in the series “In the Heat of the Night,” added a personal, if somber, note to the end of the trial.
“You never get closure,” he said of his son’s death. “You only get to a point where you bear it better than at first. It’s like getting punched every few days.”