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Contempt Hearing Is Ordered for Prostitution Case Witness

June 07, 1989

A lawyer who failed to show up to testify in last week's hearing against accused madam Karen Wilkening was ordered Tuesday to prepare for a contempt-of-court hearing.

Wesley Harris, 56, who specializes in personal-injury lawsuits and has been an attorney in San Diego for 26 years, failed to appear during the first two days of Wilkening's preliminary hearing, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Harris showed up the third day, but requested immunity before testifying. The next day he was hospitalized with high blood pressure.

Two counts involving Harris' alleged purchase of prostitution services from Wilkening's alleged call-girl ring were dismissed because Harris did not testify.

On Tuesday, Harris showed up with his attorney, Nelson Brav, and Brav explained to San Diego Municipal Judge Lisa Guy-Schall the circumstances of Harris' non-appearance. Brav said Harris met with Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles Rogers before the hearing to explain that he had health problems and was going on a vacation that week.

Brav said Harris misunderstood and thought he had been excused from testifying, then went on a trip with his wife in a motor home the day of the hearing. The motor home broke down in Pine Valley, he said, and he was unable to get back in time.

Then Harris was hospitalized on his doctor's advice for the last day of the hearing, Brav said.

Rogers told the judge he did meet with Harris days before the hearing, but did not excuse him. The prosecutor said Harris's chief concerns were that he would be embarrassed if he had to testify about his contact with Wilkening and cited his health problems. Rogers said he agreed to have Harris wait on a telephone standby basis.

Rogers said he recalled telling Harris that his vacation would have to wait.

Rogers said Harris made "a threat to the district attorney's office" in a letter in which Harris stated that he had embarrassing information about other clients of Wilkening that included judges, police officers and members of the news media.

Rogers requested a full contempt-of-court hearing, and the judge agreed to schedule it for June 27.

Guy-Schall said she could not understand why, if Harris was so concerned about his health and the possibility of having a heart attack or stroke on the stand, he would take a trip in a recreational vehicle and drive on winding, mountainous roads, which she said would also be stressful.

Brav asked the judge to disqualify herself from the case, saying she was angered and inconvenienced by Harris, but Guy-Schall said she would not do that.

Wilkening, 43, was ordered Friday to stand trial on 18 counts of pimping and pandering involving some prominent citizens.

She faces another preliminary hearing today on charges that she and her former defense attorney, Buford Wiley Jr., conspired to obstruct justice by fleeing the country to avoid a court hearing on prostitution charges in 1987.

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