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Not-Guilty Plea Is Entered for Masters : Courts: Judge refuses to delay arraignment of man who admits killing tagger. He sets his trial date on two weapons permit violations.


VAN NUYS — A Van Nuys Municipal Court judge, refusing to postpone arraignment for a fourth time, Monday entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of William Andrew Masters II, whose killing of a teen-age tagger sparked debate over graffiti and vigilantism.

Judge Alan Ellis then set a May 15 trial date for Masters, 35, of Sun Valley, who is charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and carrying a loaded weapon without a permit. If convicted on the misdemeanor charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail, said Deputy City Atty. Richard A. Schmidt.

Immediately after the court proceedings, Masters thought the continuance had been granted because his attorney did not show up in court. However, after being told by a reporter that the judge had entered a plea on his behalf, a surprised Masters said, "Well, then I guess my attorney will take care of it."

Masters identified his attorney as J. Anthony Bryan of Bakersfield, but Bryan said Tuesday that while he is interested in representing Masters, he has not yet been officially retained. Bryan declined to elaborate.

The charges against Masters, an unemployed actor, stem from a Jan. 31 incident in Sun Valley. During a late-night walk, Masters came across two young men who were spray-painting graffiti on a wall under an overpass of the Hollywood Freeway.

After writing down the license plate number of their vehicle, Masters contends that Cesar Rene Arce, 18, and David Hillo, 20, confronted him and tried to rob him. Hillo was carrying a screwdriver. Masters shot and killed Arce and wounded Hillo in the buttocks.

Hillo, who is charged with misdemeanor vandalism and a probation violation, denies that he or Arce tried to rob Masters, and said he did not intend to use the screwdriver as a weapon.

The district attorney's office, saying it was reasonable for masters to fear for his life, ruled the shooting to be self-defense and refused to bring murder or manslaughter charges. The weapons charge was then turned over to the city attorney's office, which prosecutes misdemeanors.

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