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Man Ordered to Jail Over Hair-Dryer Spat : Courts: The Tarzana resident is sentenced after being convicted of attacking neighbor over the borrowed appliance.

October 06, 1994|ANN W. O'NEILL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Talk about a bad hair day.

Michael Patrick Cunningham, 28, of Tarzana was sentenced to six months in jail Wednesday and ordered to undergo another six months of anger counseling for pummeling a neighbor during a dispute over a borrowed hair dryer.

"My idea of a good headline would be, 'Hair Dryer Leads to Blow Out,' " Deputy City Atty. George Schell said, adding that "from now on, I'm going to towel-dry my hair."

While the dispute was undeniably petty, Schell said, the injuries Cunningham inflicted were serious.

Alex Conaway, 29, received a fractured nose, jaw and eye socket. X-rays showed that bone fragments had pierced his brain, Schell said.

Conaway remembers little about the May 17 punch-out, except for waking up and seeing paramedics standing over him in the courtyard of Cunningham's apartment house in the 18500 block of Burbank Boulevard, Schell said.

But testimony from other witnesses during a four-day jury trial before Municipal Judge Alice Altoon provided this scenario:

Conaway's girlfriend, Cheryl Jones, had used Cunningham's name to borrow the grooming appliance from yet another neighbor. Somewhere along the way, she came to believe that she didn't have to give it back.

Cunningham confronted Jones over what he believed to be unauthorized use of his name and then, Schell said, the pair began a shoving match that wound in a "chest-bumping contest."

"Our primary victim is a rather meek-looking guy, while the girlfriend and our defendant are on the large side," the prosecutor said. Nonetheless, Conaway came to the rescue of his girlfriend, who'd been called some unsavory names by Cunningham.

According to Schell, Cunningham grabbed Conaway by his hair, punched him twice in the face, then slammed his head down on a sidewalk.

Cunningham maintained that Conaway attacked him and that Conaway received some of his injuries by falling on the sidewalk.

After 10 hours of deliberation, a jury decided that Cunningham had used excessive force and convicted him of misdemeanor battery.

The fate of the hair dryer was unclear Wednesday.

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