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A Unique Defense

October 10, 1994|JAMES BATES

One of the stranger stories of the nation's savings and loan crisis is the extraordinary security put in place by Thomas Spiegel when he headed the now-defunct Columbia Savings & Loan in Beverly Hills during the 1980s.

Back in 1992, Spiegel was indicted for allegedly looting the S&L to support a luxury lifestyle, including spending thousands of dollars for an arsenal of weapons, such as Uzi submachine guns.

Federal thrift officials in a separate civil action said Spiegel designed what was to be a headquarters building with a bulletproof "survival chamber." Through it all, Spiegel, whose federal criminal trial is schedule to start next week, never publicly explained his security concerns.

Now, newly filed court documents provide Spiegel's first public explanation, although a recent defeat in court is going to preclude him from raising it in his defense.

According to government court papers, Spiegel had been planning to argue he suffers from a "Children of the Holocaust" syndrome that prompted his concerns.

Spiegel himself was born shortly after World War II ended. But his parents survived the Holocaust, with their first-born son dying at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Spiegel's lawyers planned to call as a witness Yael Danieli, a clinical psychologist who founded the Group Project on Holocaust Survivors and Their Children.

Prosecutors objected, calling Spiegel's claim "a ploy to present emotionally charged evidence with no foundation or relevance in an improper and desperate attempt to engender sympathy from the jury." They successfully argued to have any Danieli testimony excluded.

Spiegel lawyer Richard Marmaro said that as a result of the judge's ruling, there are no plans to use the Holocaust defense in the trial.

Will This Contest Go Flat?

For a company concerned about selling a product that tastes good, soda maker Barq's is seemingly unconcerned if people question the company's good taste.

The company, known for its root beer, plans to launch within two weeks a "Match the DNA Sweepstakes" contest, in which people scratch off game cards featuring pictures of DNA strands.

Barq's marketing Vice President Rick Hill conceded that the contest capitalizes on the publicity surrounding DNA blood tests in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, but "beyond that, this doesn't involve O.J." Targeted are readers of the irreverent magazines Spy and Inside Edge.

Unlike most scratch-off contests, winners in this game get prizes when they fail to match. "Normally, if you're involved in a situation where your DNA is being compared to something else, it's usually not good news when you match," Hill explains.

Must Be Due to Budget Cuts

The Internal Revenue Service's Problem Resolution Office needs to resolve a problem by getting copies of its codes.

Beverly Hills tax lawyer Alan Kirios says he cited a regulation to the IRS last week that he believes justifies a client's tax deduction the IRS is disputing.

"They called back and left a message asking me to fax them a copy of the code section," Kirios said.

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