By Gustavo Arellano
By Aimee Murillo
By Matt Coker
By Vickie Chang
By Matt Coker
By LP Hastings
By Michael Goldstein
By R. Scott Moxley
A Planet Beauty clerk—not Woodworth—approached and asked the lawyer if he had a Coach wallet. Gurwitz affirmed that he did. The clerk cheerfully advised him that magnetic security strips inside that brand of wallet activate the store’s anti-theft alarm “all the time.” Deep in the purse, they found a small plastic sensor. Gurwitz exited the store, got rid of everything but the sensor, re-entered and set off the alarm again.
Mystery solved. Prosecutors shortly thereafter dismissed the case. A miscarriage of justice was averted.
“For a person who did not commit these crimes and who has never had any contact with the criminal-justice system, it is no exaggeration to say that a baseless accusation can be a life-altering nightmare,” said Gurwitz. “This is the case here, where a sloppy investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department led to the filing of criminal charges. There was an utter lack of probable cause that my client did anything wrong.”
An OCSD spokesman said Martin wasn’t available for comment because he no longer worked at the department and had moved out of state. Woodworth, who now works at Planet Beauty’s Laguna Niguel location, declined to answer any questions about the incident.
To wipe the bum charges from Georgie’s public record, Gurwitz asked Superior Court Judge Craig E. Robison for a formal declaration of factual innocence. Orange County judges are often reluctant to grant that move because it points a spotlight on less-than-stellar law-enforcement work. It wasn’t clear whether Robison would agree. But on Dec. 3, deputy DA Richard Zimmer made a classy move. He appeared in court to say he didn’t oppose Gurwitz’s motion. Robison shrugged his shoulders and said he’d sign the order.
Outside Robison’s Newport Beach courtroom, a relieved Georgie—in the ninth month of her pregnancy—happily huddled with her husband, Paul, and Gurwitz. She shook her head in disbelief. “It was all so stupid,” she told me. “It was all so unnecessary.”
Paul, who’d purchased the Coach wallet as a gift two years earlier, said, “All she did was go to a store to buy something, and the next thing we knew, our lives got turned upside-down. It certainly has been a learning experience.”
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city