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South Bay Digest

South Bay : Rock Singer Enters Plea of Not Guilty in Auto Death

January 10, 1985

The lead singer of the heavy-metal rock band Motley Crue pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving stemming from a Dec. 8 accident in which another rock musician was killed and two people were injured in Redondo Beach.

Vincent Neil Wharton's plea was entered on his behalf by his lawyer, Michael Nasatir, in South Bay Municipal Court in Torrance. Wharton, who uses the stage name Vince Neil, stood silently at Nasatir's side during the two-minute arraignment.

Dressed in a conservative gray suit that contrasted sharply with his usual costumes on stage, Wharton was allowed to remain free on $2,500 bail pending a preliminary hearing in the case Feb. 20.

The 23-year-old vocalist was driving his sports car on the Esplanade in Redondo Beach last month when it crashed head-on into a Volkswagen. Nicholas Dingley, a drummer in the rock band Hanoi Rocks, who was a passenger in Wharton's car, was killed.

Lisa Hogan, 18, a passenger in the Volkswagen, and the car's driver, Daniel Smithers, 20, remain hospitalized as a result of the crash, Hogan's 21-year-old sister, Michele, said Wednesday.

Michele Hogan said her sister, who was transferred last week from Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance to Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Harbor City, was in a coma for nearly a month after the crash. But recently the accident victim, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident, has "said a few words" and doctors believe that "now she is pretty much awake," Michele Hogan said.

"She brushed my hair yesterday, which is a really big thing," Michele Hogan said. She said that Smithers is undergoing therapy at a hospital in the San Fernando Valley.

After the accident, Lisa Hogan's mother said her daughter was a recovering abuser of alcohol and drugs who spent three years putting her life together and fighting chemical dependency.

Investigators said Wharton's blood alcohol level reading after the crash was 0.17, above the 0.10 level at which a driver is considered legally intoxicated.

Meanwhile, a Carson-based band called Sceptre, which says it plays music with "positive" themes, announced that a concert originally planned for Saturday night at El Camino College has been postponed until March 8 because of confusion over the availability of tickets. The concert is designed to benefit an anti-drug abuse program that helped Lisa Hogan.

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