In a case that has become a cause celebre for a group fighting prejudice against Gypsies, a Superior Court judge on Thursday ordered the resentencing of a convicted burglar who was described in a probation report as operating with "other weak-minded scheming Gypsies."
Walter Larson, who is serving a 3-year federal sentence for bribery, was ordered by Long Beach Superior Court Judge Richard F. Charvat to return to court Oct. 5 for resentencing on the burglary charge.
Charvat also ordered a new sentencing report to be prepared by a different probation officer. He ordered that the new sentence not exceed the term of five years and four months Larson faces when his federal sentence ends in November.
"There were allegations (Larson and his attorney) didn't like the first probation report," Charvat said after the hearing. The new hearing will let the prosecutor and defense attorney present their arguments for a sentence.
Larson's attorney, Barry Fisher, said Charvat's resentencing order was an "encouraging" sign that "will telegraph a message" against prejudicial probation reports.
Larson, 37, of Montebello, was convicted of burglarizing four homes in Long Beach over a period of four hours one day in 1984, taking $130.
Although Larson's only previous contact with the law had been a $50 fine for fighting with his brother, veteran Probation Officer Will Manson wrote a tough report that aroused the U.S. Romani (Gypsy) Council, a group fighting prejudice against Gypsies, to come to the defendant's aid.
The report stated that Larson, "along with other weak-minded scheming Gypsies wormed their way into elderly victims' residences with the sole purpose of stealing various items of value. . . . Realistically, not much is known about the defendant, other than he is a Gypsy who undoubtedly has been living on the fringes of the law for a long time."
Superior Court Judge Charles Sheldon sentenced Larson to five years, four months in prison. He said the report, prepared to guide him in sentencing, did not prejudice him.
After the burglary arrest in 1984, Larson jumped bail and paid $5,000 to an undercover FBI agent who promised to clear his record. That resulted in his bribery conviction and prison term on Terminal Island.