In most respects, today was a typical day in Orange County: Surfers hit Pacific Ocean waves under a cloudless sky. Shoppers crammed into South Coast Plaza. The notorious 55 freeway wrecked people's schedules. Excited tourists piled into Disneyland and the water cooler topic remained the Little Saigon woman who on Monday, allegedly drugged her husband, chopped off his penis, threw it down a kitchen sink and turned on the disposal.
In other words, there were plenty of distractions from a major event in the history of the county's criminal justice system.
Inside Judge William R. Froeberg's 10th floor courtroom at OC's Central Courthouse in Santa Ana late this afternoon, a jury of seven women and five men pronounced Eric Naposki, an ex-NFL linebacker, guilty of murder.
People get convicted of murder all the time, but this case was
exceptionally special–and not just because the accused killer played
professional football for the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Barcelona Dragons.
Or because Naposki's Newport Beach victim–an immensely talented and lovable William McLaughlin–had
earned more than $55 million when a scumbag brutally fired six hollow
tip bullets into his torso and left him dying in his own kitchen on Dec.
Or necessarily because it has taken many years for the first prong of justice to locate McLaughlin's surviving adult daughters, Jenny and Kimberly McLaughlin.
successful case against Naposki, arguably the county's most puzzlingly
cocky homicide defendant in my memory, was an affirmation of the
excellence that exists within OC's law enforcement community. As a crime
writer who well knows there are within our borders tragically flawed,
despicable people wearing high-ranking badges, it's nice to see good
cops–the ones who are worth triple whatever we pay them–win a tough
Here are our heroes: Newport Beach Police Department detectives Thomas Voth (retired), Craig Frizzell (retired) and Joe Cartwright; Investigator Larry Montgomery with the Orange County District Attorney's office; and veteran homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy.
Remove any one of these five public servants from the equation and a
macho-acting but pusillanimous killer still would be roaming free.
the irony: the defense team, three-fourths of them from New York,
repeatedly ridiculed the cops on Naposki's case as if they were Barney Fife's dim-witted, cross-eyed cousins.
The jury obviously didn't buy that characterization and good for them.
here's the beauty of this case–the reason we all should be pleased
tonight: For 13 years, Newport Beach cops couldn't decisively solve
McLaughlin's murder, but they never gave up.
The cops weren't perfect–even they'd admit that. Yet, in 2007, police
officials–namely Cartwright–had the courage to risk potential
public embarrassment for the department by handing over the case to the DA's
Montgomery, a veteran, cold-case, super sleuth.
“That's the mark
of true professionalism,” Murphy told me. “They didn't care if they got
embarrassed for screwing something up. All they were focused on was
solving this murder, finding the killers and bringing them to justice.
That's outstanding. That's what people should remember.”
Not surprisingly, Montgomery–my nominee for the county's most underpaid cop–did find new, substantial incriminating evidence against Naposki and his alleged co-conspirator, Nanette Johnston, and handed it over to Murphy, an accomplished member of the DA's elite homicide prosecution unit.
I mentioned that only one prong of justice has greeted Jenny and
Kimberly McLaughlin; Johnston's trial as Naposki's co-conspirator is set
to begin on Nov. 4.
If she has any common sense, Johnston–who
was called “diabolical” by both the prosecution and defense in the just
finished case–must realize the chances of her ever taking a single
breath in freedom again just loudly evaporated unless her feisty public
defender, Mick Hill, can pull off a miracle.
“guilty” verdict in a murder trial probably wouldn't be an experience
that most normal people would laugh off. As Naposki heard this jury's
decision, he smirked like he did when the prosecutor played the
incredibly painful 911 call the victim's now dead son, Kevin, made to
police when he found his dad shot.
This defendant was so stupid he laughed and smiled and snorted throughout his trial.
I guess some jerks have to be callously disgusting all the way to the end.
Eric, I'm betting California's lovely correctional prison system, your
likely home until you die, brings you many future moments to smirk.
Bye. Bye. Send me a postcard.
back in common decency territory, there remains Jenny and Kimberly. I
saw their strength during painful moments in the trial. (Who wants to
see horrible crime scene pictures of their murdered father?)
today's verdict, they were appropriately solemn. They praised the cops
and the DA's office as well as the jurors. They hailed the moment as an
honor to their slain dad.
During the trial, Naposki's visiting
New York pals from Pappalardo & Pappalardo pompously berated
everything here: the prosecutor–who has never lost a homicide case, the cops, the media, etc. They dripped
smugness. They routinely doused themselves in cologne, perhaps in an
attempt to mask their previous night's excessive bar activities. They
constantly rolled their eyes because–they wanted us to know–they were
the superior ones in the courtroom. They called people “zit-faced” and
“stupid” and “losers.” One of them, a former prosecutor for God's sake, shamelessly mad-dogged me.
Naposki and his testosterone-overloaded, legal crew wouldn't know class if it ran them over, backed up, and ran them over a second time.
Hope you boys get cocktails at half price on your coach Jet Blue trip back to La Guardia. Make sure your laundry shops remove the footprint imprints left on the back of your pants by the victorious California crew. Like, totally, you know what I mean, Richard A. Portale?
here's a powerful image that the gutter boys could never appreciate:
After the verdict had been read and the handcuffed, still defiant defendant taken from the courtroom,
Kimberly McLaughlin walked over to Naposki's weeping fiancee, Rosie Macaluso–a school
teacher still clinging absurdly to the
notion that her boy is the victim here–and consoled her.
Given everything that Kimberly and her sister have endured over the years–including the disingenuous indignities thrown by Naposki's defense in hopes of fingering their disabled brother as the killer, that's an inspiring sign of class.
Next up: an Oct. 21 sentencing hearing.
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
(rscottmoxley at ocweekly dot com)
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.