A veteran television actor and Ojai resident was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for molesting an 11-year-old neighborhood girl last March.
When bailiffs wheeled the disabled actor out of the courtroom--his family sobbing in the gallery, the victim's mother proclaiming "justice was served"--it brought to a close the strange, real-life legal drama of James Stacy.
It is a tale that stretched from a quiet Ojai neighborhood to the cliffs of Hawaii to the Ventura County Jail. He is now on his way to state prison.
"I do want to make a formal apology for what happened that horrible day at my house," Stacy said before his sentence was imposed. "I hope it did not affect her innocent mind."
Defense attorney Samuel Eaton had argued for probation, citing Stacy's lack of similar convictions and claiming the incident was a "minimal molestation," that lasted less than a minute and where no violence occurred.
Prosecutor Dee Corona said that, at first, she believed Stacy probably deserved probation for the offense. But his bizarre behavior after his arrest, as well as a psychologist's conclusion that Stacy was a pedophile, led her to successfully argue for the six-year prison sentence.
Stacy--whose real name is Maurice W. Elias--was arrested after the young girl told her mother that Stacy invited her to his home for a swim and then fondled her genitals.
Several weeks later, while out on bail awaiting trial for the felony molestation charge, Stacy was arrested twice more on prowling charges. In both instances, young girls told authorities that a drunken Stacy had terrified them as he approached in his wheelchair.
At one point during the summer, Stacy telephoned the mother of his first victim and offered her $2,500 if she would quit cooperating with investigators, Corona said. And on the eve of his original sentencing date in November, Stacy skipped town.
Authorities found Stacy in Hawaii the next month after he reportedly tried to commit suicide by jumping from the Pali lookout, a cliff-top scenic area on Oahu. He was returned to Ventura County for sentencing.
Stacy, visibly shocked by the sentence imposed by acting Superior Court Judge Steven Hintz, hung his head low and slowly shook back and forth as his daughter, Heather, cried "Oh Dad, oh Dad" and sobbed into her hands.
He turned and looked sadly at his daughter without speaking. His attorney told the judge that alcoholism and a debilitating motorcycle accident took his client from the pantheon of television stardom to prison.
The suicide try was "done with the realization that one may have wasted one's life away," Eaton said in asking for leniency.
Stacy, 60, starred as Johnny Madrid Lancer in the television drama "Lancer" between 1968 and 1971. He also appeared in several other television shows, including "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," "Highway to Heaven" and "Cagney and Lacey."
At one point, he was married to actress Connie Stevens.
Stacy lost an arm and a leg in a motorcycle accident 23 years ago and starred in a television movie about his life, "Just a Little Inconvenience." Even his motorcycle accident was dramatic.
A drunken driver hit Stacy as he was driving his motorcycle, killing his girlfriend, who was a passenger. Stacy became the first Californian to successfully sue the tavern owner who served the drunken driver, and the state Supreme Court upheld Stacy's $1-million judgment.
He went on to film public service spots warning against the dangers of drinking and driving.