DOWNEY — A Municipal Court jury has acquitted Downey City Hall critic Lennie Whittington of one count of making annoying telephone calls to a local resident and deadlocked on a similar count that was later dismissed by a judge.
The jury found Whittington innocent of a misdemeanor charge that he made annoying phone calls a year ago to Robert Feliciano, and deadlocked 7-5 in favor of acquittal that he also made annoying phone calls to Scot Yotsuya, an assistant to the Downey city manager.
Municipal Court Judge Robert Drees dropped the charge involving Yotsuya. Each count carried a possible sentence of six months in County Jail and a $1,000 fine.
Whittington, 48, a retired truck and bus driver, said he felt vindicated. He said the charges represented an attempt by city officials to silence him.
"The majority of the jury shook my hand or hugged me," Whittington said. "They felt there should be more people like me willing to speak up against City Hall."
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Linda Schneider said jurors told her their decision turned on the requirement that they find Whittington had purposely set out to make the allegedly abusive phone calls. "There was no question in my mind that the law was violated on both counts," Schneider said.
Schneider alleged that Whittington directed profanity and ethnic slurs at Yotsuya during telephone conversations on Jan. 24, 1986, to City Hall. Whittington had called City Manager Don Davis' office to complain about whether there had been proper notification for an advisory board meeting, but Yotsuya picked up the telephone.
Whittington was accused of calling Feliciano at home on Jan. 22 and barraging him with a series of expletives over a letter penned by Feliciano and published in a local newspaper. The letter complained of council critics who were acting like children.
Whittington was first tried last March, when a jury deadlocked 10-2 for conviction.
In 1983, Whittington sued the city in federal court in Los Angeles after the city conducted a criminal investigation of Whittington's background. He lost the case in December, 1984. Whittington has been a vocal critic of officials at City Council meetings.