Sizemore Gets Jail Term for Violating Probation
In a day of high theatrics in Los Angeles County Superior Court, actor Tom Sizemore showed that he could range from tragedy to jubilation in minutes as a judge Thursday handed him a 21-month sentence for repeatedly failing drug tests while on probation for beating his one-time girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.
Sizemore, 43, pleaded for leniency and sobbed as he apologized to his family and friends for embarrassing them with his past conduct involving drug use and allegations of domestic violence against women. He also bemoaned the fact that he was now bankrupt, and asked the court to give him another chance.
“I’m not acting. I’m begging, I’m beseeching you,” he told Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. “I can’t imagine my future without performing.”
But when he emerged from the courtroom moments later, Sizemore was beaming as though he had just won an Academy Award.
“I won! I’m free!” he said after his lawyers calculated that he probably would have to spend no more than six months in jail and four additional months in a special drug rehabilitation program -- and then only if he loses his appeal of the original conviction in the Fleiss case. Until then, Sizemore remains free to pursue his acting career since the appeal process could take more than two years.
As he was being chased by reporters outside the Superior Court’s Airport Branch after the hearing, Sizemore called one of the prosecutors a “chump” and accused the other of seeking Andy Warhol’s proverbial 15 minutes of fame “because I was an actor.”
Then Sizemore, best known for his roles in “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down” and the CBS police series “Robbery Homicide Division,” told the cluster of TV news crews, “I’m going to make a movie.” Then he climbed into a black convertible driven by his 24-year-old girlfriend, Jessie Tuite. Holding a little dog named Marlon, purchased the day that Marlon Brando died last summer, Sizemore flashed the victory sign as the car sped away.
It was a Hollywood moment on a morning filled with them.
Even the judge seemed to have caught the bug.
“We think of the mask that represents the thespian arts,” Barreto said. “You have the smiling one and the frowning one. It’s like they’re two lives. And Mr. Sizemore has been living two lives for some time. The life he leads professionally, there’s nothing wrong. That’s the smiling mask. But then, the cameras go off and the lights go off and his personal life is involved and that is the one with the frown because that is where the problems are.”
Since his original sentencing in October 2003 to six months in jail and three years of probation, prosecutors said Sizemore has repeatedly failed to comply with terms of his probation. They alleged that he tested positive for drugs numerous times from Dec. 13 to Feb. 24, and even used a device called “the Whizzinator” to provide probation officers with clean urine samples. Sizemore has denied the allegations and said the device “wasn’t mine.”
Deputy City Atty. Robert Y. Cha, who prosecuted the Fleiss case, said the bottom line is that Sizemore received a 21-month sentence. He said it would be up to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to determine how much time Sizemore spends behind bars and how much time he gets off early for custody credits called “good time/work time.”
The only immediate worry Sizemore has, prosecutors said, is that he must enter a Proposition 36-mandated drug treatment program for pleading guilty to felony drug possession. The plea stemmed from two probation searches that were conducted at Sizemore’s former Benedict Canyon home last year. The searches turned up methamphetamine, amphetamines and hydrocodone, the generic form of the painkiller Vicodin.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Carney said that Sizemore must return to court April 14 and show a judge that he has enrolled in an approved drug rehab program. Should he violate the terms of such a program, Carney said, a judge could sentence Sizemore to up to three years in state prison.
Outside court, one of Sizemore’s attorneys, Michael J. Rovell of Chicago, admitted that his client has a drug problem but that it is being controlled.
“I think the problem, as it exists now, is minimal,” he said. “He’s functioning. He’s able to go to work. He’s able to help write the script, direct and act.”
Sizemore is wrapping up a small, independent film called “Fear Itself,” and said he has more filming on another independent movie next week called “Splinter,” starring Edward James Olmos.
The courtroom Thursday was filled with people lending Sizemore moral support, including family members, the managers of Sizemore’s rock band, Day 8, and the producers of “Fear Itself.”
Sizemore took the opportunity in court to apologize to Fleiss, who had testified that he beat her and made threatening phone calls.
Yet, outside court, there was bitterness in Sizemore’s voice when he was asked about Fleiss. “I don’t care where she is,” he said. “I don’t want to see her again.”
As it happened, Fleiss wasn’t far away. The prosecutor, Cha, had asked her to come to the courthouse in case he needed her to address the judge as a victim confronting her batterer. But he determined that her appearance was not necessary and she did not make an appearance.
Sizemore has maintained all along that Fleiss left numerous harassing telephone messages on his answering machine, and complained that she was never charged with a crime.
In a sentencing memorandum filed by the defense, Rovell listed four phone messages that he said Fleiss had left for Sizemore. In one, she allegedly said: “You look like a big fat John Belushi slob. You are so gross; I never loved you, not for a minute, not for a second....”
Cha said Fleiss contends that the messages were taken out of context and, “more importantly, she is not the one on trial. It’s very easy to point fingers at the victim and say, ‘Look, the victim’s a dirty person, she’s a horrible person, she uses foul language,’ to deflect any blame on him.”
Cha said he believes that Sizemore is still a danger to himself. “Without hesitation, I can say all the issues he suffered from -- violence against women and drug abuse -- have gone unchecked.... I think he is just as bad, if not worse off, now than when he was convicted at trial.”
In the convertible before driving away from court, Sizemore looked at the phalanx of news cameras aimed at him and took out his own video camera and began taking movies of them.
“I’m making a documentary about this whole thing,” he said. “It’s called ‘Hollywood Devolution: Tom Sizemore’s Nightmare.’ ”