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Tennant's Former Employee Found Not Guilty

March 31, 1990|JULIE CART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The trial of Gordon Griffith, a former employee of Dr. Forest Tennant, ended Friday in West Covina Municipal Court. A jury found Griffith not guilty on one count of making anonymous phone calls and was unable to come to a verdict on another count of making annoying or threatening calls. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Griffith had worked for Tennant as a liaison between Tennant's wide-ranging drug-testing/drug-education businesses and clients such as the NFL, NASCAR and the Dodgers. Griffith was fired by Tennant and his wife Miriam, who works with Tennant, on June 21, 1988.

The case revolved around a series of phone calls Griffith made to the Tennants' West Covina home on the night he was fired. Griffith admitted to making five calls, which were taped on the Tennants' phone-answering machine.

In the taped phone messages, which were played in court, Griffith demanded money he said the Tennants owed him and said he was going to hire an attorney. Griffith also said he had contacted the media regarding Tennant's handling of some drug tests, which Griffith termed "fraud."

Deputy District Attorney Leonard Torrealba argued that Griffith made four additional calls that night. Tennant testified that after he and his wife had returned home from dinner, Griffith called again, and this time Tennant answered. Tennant said Griffith was "not coherent" and threatened to kill him the next day.

Tennant testified that he had received three more calls and that on each, the caller hung up without identifying himself. Tennant said he then called police.

The jury, which deliberated for nearly three hours Friday, was unable to reach a verdict on the first count, of making phone calls with the intent to annoy or threaten. Torrealba said the jury was hung with eight in favor of a guilty verdict and four in favor of not guilty. On this charge Judge Fred A. Felix declared a mistrial, which means the case cannot be retried.

The often-lively trial required more than three days of testimony. Tennant portrayed Griffith as a disgruntled former employee with a shady background. Griffith made several attempts to discredit the drug-testing practices of Tennant.

Griffith has been a source for several news organizations regarding drug use among professional athletes. He revealed during his testimony that he was paid $25,000 by Sports Illustrated magazine for information in its recent article about drug testing in the NFL.

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