Newport Beach attorney ‘relieved’ as former doctor is convicted of attempted murder

The Plaza of the Flags stands near the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.
The Plaza of the Flags stands near the Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

A former doctor was convicted Wednesday of attempted murder of a Newport Beach attorney in a case that dates back to April 2017.

Richard Lee Austin, 68, will be sentenced on Sept. 25. Austin was convicted in 2018 of stalking and attempted kidnapping of attorney Limor Lehavi.

Wednesday’s verdict was the third trial on the charge of attempted murder. Jurors in two previous trials were unable to come to an agreement on whether or not Austin intended to kill Lehavi when he confronted her with a gun at her office three years ago.

“I just feel relieved,” Lehavi said. “This has been a long, long, long process that my family and I have been through.”

Austin previously had been involved in an altercation with a driver after a car accident. The driver then claimed damages. Austin subsequently sued his car insurance company, arguing that his policy should have covered the costs. Lehavi defended the insurance company and won the case. Austin also filed a lawsuit against Lehavi personally, which she won.

Prosecutors said Austin became “obsessed” with her.

In 2017, Austin appeared at Lehavi’s office in Newport Beach after she had switched firms and called the office under a pseudonym several times. Lehavi said that he claimed he was from Chicago and had been referred to her, but her receptionist had seen his caller ID and said that he had said something strange.

Concerned for her and her family’s safety, Lehavi said she was accompanied to her car by co-workers where she saw Austin, who drove off in a rental car. Co-workers called the police.

Austin’s attorney Karren Kenney said Wednesday that the trial was an “uphill battle” from the start, arguing that one of the investigating officers allegedly had a history of misconduct at a previous police department and was involved in a fatal shooting but that the defense was “shut down” from telling jurors. Kenney also said that Judge Michael Cassidy did not disclose he was a police officer.

“The fight’s not over,” Kenney said. “We were fighting from the beginning to the end. I’m not surprised by the conviction because of the way the defense was treated.”

Kenney said she plans on filing a new trial motion.

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