A Superior Court judge Friday rejected arguments that John Wayne's name is so legendary in Orange County that the men accused of assaulting his daughter and her boyfriend could not get a fair trial here.
"Everybody in the U.S. knows John Wayne," said Judge Leonard H. McBride. "A celebrity's notoriety is not necessarily carried over to his offspring."
The change-of-venue motion was made by lawyers for Thomas A. Gionis, 36, a Pomona surgeon and ex-husband of John Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, and lawyers for Jerrel L. Hintergardt, 37, of Burbank.
Gionis is accused of ordering the Oct. 3, 1988, assault on Wayne and her boyfriend at the time, Roger W. Luby, at Luby's Newport Beach home. Gionis and Wayne were going through a bitter divorce and a custody battle over their 2-year-old daughter. Hintergardt is accused of being one of two men who participated in the beating. The other man prosecutors contend was involved, Jeffrey K. Bouey, has agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Also a key witness against the two defendants will be O. Daniel Gal, the private investigator who claims Gionis ordered him to hire the men to "teach his wife a lesson."
Gionis' attorney, Catherine Vincent, argued Friday that her client was up against one of the two greatest legends in Orange County in John Wayne. The other, she said, was Mickey Mouse.
Hintergardt's attorney, Todd Landgren, argued that John Wayne's name is so ingrained in Orange County residents that at a recent youth group meeting, when the children could not find a flag for the pledge of allegiance, they gave it facing a picture of the late actor.
"Dr. Gionis deserves to be free of this legend of John Wayne," Vincent argued.
The defense had submitted a telephone survey in an attempt to show that the Wayne name would prejudice a jury against the defendants in the county. But the judge said he did not find the survey persuasive.
"If you're going to talk about titles, the defendant has a title of his own; he's a doctor," the judge said. "I think that will offset any nobility that might go to the victims."