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Key Witnesses Conflict in Accounts of Riot Details : Denny case: Testimony differs on sequence of events and other facts that are crucial to the prosecution's case against Damian Monroe Williams.

September 21, 1993|EDWARD J. BOYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two critical witnesses in the Reginald O. Denny beating trial on Monday again presented conflicting accounts of details that are crucial to prosecution efforts to prove the most serious charges.

Service station cashier Gabriel Quintana repeated his identification of defendant Damian Monroe Williams as the man who hit Denny in the head with a brick.

But Quintana also said he saw Williams hit Denny three times with a brick, an account unsupported by the prosecution's videotape.

Defense witness Phillip Davis, a minister who works as a paralegal, again asserted that a crowd attacked the Unocal station, robbing and beating Quintana before Denny was beaten.

During cross-examination, however, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence C. Morrison was able to show that Davis was confused about the time he arrived at the intersection where Denny was beaten, and about the sequence and other details of attacks on other motorists.

If Davis' version of events is correct, Quintana would not have seen the Denny attack. Moreover, Quintana's earlier testimony that Williams had threatened "to hit and kill people" would also be called into question.

That statement is important because it describes Williams' alleged intent, an element that must be established to prove aggravated mayhem and attempted murder. Only Williams, 20, is charged with aggravated mayhem--assault with intent to permanently disfigure.

Williams and Henry Keith Watson, 29, are charged with attempting to murder Denny, and with assaulting or robbing seven other people at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. That intersection was a flash point for rioting that erupted after not-guilty verdicts were returned in the trial of four officers accused of beating Rodney G. King.

On Friday, Davis testified that he arrived at the intersection shortly after 5 p.m. He corrected that on Monday, saying the prosecution's videotape shows him at the intersection at 6 p.m.

Davis said his time estimate may have been incorrect, but that he did not forget the sequence events.

Morrison played a videotape of the attack on Quintana, covering the portion of the screen showing the time of the recording. Davis said he had seen that attack and estimated that it took place at about 6:25 p.m. The videotape time meter showed 6:03 p.m.

The amateur cameraman who shot to footage placed it at 7:03 p.m., testifying earlier he that had forgotten to set his camera ahead one hour for daylight-saving time.

Davis admitted using different names and different dates of birth to obtain California driver's licenses. Answering questions from Williams' attorney Edi M.O. Faal, Davis said the different names and birth dates did not prevent him from going to Florence and Normandie and helping beaten trucker Larry Tarvin.

"Did you see Mr. Morrison there helping anyone?" Faal asked, trying to deflect Morrison's repeated questions to Davis about why he didn't help other victims.

"No," Davis answered.

Faal recalled Quintana to the stand in the afternoon, getting the cashier to estimate that once the attack on his booth began, about five minutes passed before looters came through a window and opened the door, admitting others. He said he then hid in a bathroom for about 10 minutes until looters removed the bathroom door--a task that took between three and five minutes.

For five minutes or less after that, he said, he was threatened, beaten and ordered to open a safe. Then he was dragged out of the booth and beaten for another two or three minutes, he said.

In his questioning, Faal was working backward from 7:03 p.m.--when Quintana already had been beaten--to 6:45 p.m., when Denny was attacked.

If Faal can show that Quintana was under attack for that 18 minutes, that evidence would lend credibility to Davis' account.

Quintana also said he saw Williams hit Denny three times with a brick, twice while the trucker was on the ground and again when he tried to stand. Quintana later said one blow was struck not with a brick but with a white object.

Videotape shows Denny being hit with a white oxygenator, but the blow is not delivered by the man prosecutors say is Williams.

KCAL-TV anchor David Jackson, who covered rioting at Florence and Normandie from a helicopter, also testified Monday. He said he never saw a helicopter carrying reporter Robert A. Tur descend to 70 feet.

Tur identified Williams and Watson as Denny's assailants, testifying that he had a clear view of them through binoculars when his pilot descended to 70 feet. But on cross-examination, Jackson said his helicopter was refueling during the attack on Denny, and he was not there to see how low Tur's craft had flown.

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