Justice Takes a Pool Cue

Assistant sheriff, OC dailies miss the irony as Haidl 3 elude conviction

The jury--dominated by low-income men--was oblivious to those clues as they were to the shameless defense tactics. A lone female juror refused to be suckered. She voted "guilty" on all counts. For others, the defendants were guilty of just some of the charges. Because it takes a unanimous vote to obtain a conviction, the trial was over the moment Doe admitted she'd had consensual, one-on-one sex with two of the three defendants on prior occasions. If a jury doesn't like an alleged victim, they're going to look for ways to nullify the law. Speaking of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' June 29 decision to retry the case after August 6, one juror told the Times, "I think that the hardest thing for the prosecution is going to be Jane Doe."

Before deliberations, Judge Briseno explained to the jury that if the defendants should have reasonably known Doe was incapacitated, they were compelled to vote guilty, but 22-year-old juror Michael (he declined to give his last name) of Garden Grove ignored that instruction. The girl's sexual history "weighed heavily" in his decision to support the defendants, he said. "[The videotape] was compelling, but not, in my opinion, sufficiently convincing."

It was easy to see why Michael had been one of the defense team's top choices for the panel at the outset of the trial. "I could understand why some people would [watch the video] and view it as a crime," he said. "But I can also see how [the footage] can be misunderstood, too."

It's amazing what a nine-member legal defense team can accomplish. Of course, that tally does not include O.J. Simpson jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, an army of private investigators led by a retired FBI agent and several ex-sheriff's deputies, an audio-visual expert (who made dozens of colorful, anti-Doe charts for jurors to ponder), several lurking fellows with unknown assignments, a full-time publicist and the editorial support from the two local daily newspapers.

The Register's Steven Greenhut, who never bothered to visit the courtroom, opined on May 9 that it's less of a crime if a girl is sexually assaulted by someone she knows. He chastised prosecutors for not granting the defendants leniency. "There's real questions here about justice," said Greenhut.

Dana Parsons of the Timesshowed up for less than 10 percent of the trial and, as best I can determine, never bothered to read the case file or interview anyone on the prosecution's side. In discussions with his colleagues, he ridiculed the Weekly's exclusive description of the content of Haidl's tape, but he's never seen the video. He must have been content to rely upon his regular, private briefings with Haidl publicist Tori Richards and Barnett.

In a trial eve, May 2 column that shamelessly regurgitated defense-supplied lies about Doe--she liked to use "a pool cue on herself" and "agreed to have sex on videotape," Parsons called on the jury to ignore the state's rape by intoxication law. Why? "Given what they knew about the girl," wrote Parsons. "Did it even occur to the boys that they were committing a crime? I doubt they did." When he drew that conclusion, not one piece of evidence had yet been presented in court.

Journalism at its best exposes injustice. For Parsons, the most condemnable person in the Haidl case wasn't the twisted defendants or their obnoxious families who routinely mad-dogged court observers or even Cavallo, who set a new low in defense lawyer conduct. Instead, the veteran columnist wrote five articles blasting DA Rackauckas for treating the case so seriously. It's no wonder the Haidls are confident they can escape accountability.

It should be no surprise that Parsons has also led the cries for Rackauckas to cut a deal with the defendants. As with the rest of his coverage, he isn't bothered that the Haidls of fashionable Corona del Mar believe they deserve special treatment because of their money and power. Parsons pretends it's only the DA who has been stubborn and misguided. He conveniently didn't report that the defendants have refused guilty pleas unless they receive probation or, at worst, nine-month maximum sentences.

The arrogance doesn't end there. Through his numerous legal representatives, Haidl has demanded that Rackauckas give his son an additional concession: no prison time. If there's a deal before a second trial, he wants Gregory in a more comfortable, private security facility where karma and a pool cue aren't as likely to find his rear end.

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