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Jury Convicts Man of Stalking Singer Madonna

Crime: The homeless defendant could face up to 11 years in prison for threatening the pop star and attacking her bodyguard.

January 09, 1996|ANDREA FORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A homeless man shot last year by a bodyguard at pop superstar Madonna's estate after showing up there repeatedly was convicted Monday of stalking and threatening to kill the entertainer.

Robert Dewey Hoskins, 38, also was convicted of threatening to kill the bodyguard and Madonna's personal assistant on one of his forays to her property in the Hollywood Hills and of assaulting the bodyguard on another occasion.

Hoskins smiled when he was led into the courtroom Monday afternoon to hear the verdicts, but he sat impassively as a court clerk announced that he had been found guilty on all the counts against him.

His lawyer, Deputy Public Defender E. John Myers, contended last week that Hoskins is harmless and is guilty only of trespassing.

But the jury, in 4 1/2 hours of deliberation, concluded that Hoskins had stalked Madonna and that she believed he was dangerous, an element required for conviction under state law.

"As far as the women were concerned, there was no doubt" that Hoskins had frightened Madonna, said Penny Parker, a homemaker and one of four women on the jury.

Parker said the men on the jury needed "a little convincing [about] what would or wouldn't scare" a stalking victim.

Male jurors interviewed agreed with Parker's assessment, but said all 12 panel members agreed in the end that serious crimes had been committed.

The crimes, jury foreman John J. Utech said, had terrified the normally "defiant" celebrity.

"She was very real, very believable and very credible," despite her testy answers to some questions and her reluctance to come to court until ordered there under threat of jail and $5-million bail, Utech said of the entertainer's appearance last week.

"We all walked away feeling she was frightened," he added.

After the verdicts, Madonna released a statement saying she was relieved that the jury had convicted Hoskins and that she hopes "the outcome of this case lets other stalking victims know that the system can, and does, work."

Her lawyer, Nicholas DeWitt, said the entertainer is glad she testified, but still worries about copycat stalkers and still intends to sell her estate near Lake Hollywood because, as she testified, it "attracts negative energy."

As a result of the stalking, she testified, she has had nightmares about someone trying to harm her.

Hoskins first invaded the pop star's property in April by scaling a high wall on an evening when Madonna was in San Diego, according to testimony. Madonna's bodyguard, Basil Stephens, testified that he chased Hoskins away on that occasion.

The following day, according to the testimony, Hoskins returned to the property while Madonna was riding a bike, ringing a call-box at the gate.

Madonna's assistant, Caresse Norman, testified that she answered and told him the entertainer was not at home. Norman said Hoskins then let loose a torrent a death threats against her, Madonna and anyone in the house.

When Stephens drove up and tried to question Hoskins, the man threatened to kill Madonna if she did not marry him, Stephens testified. Hoskins also threatened to kill him, Stephens said, if he did not deliver a note scrawled on a religious tract.

Madonna arrived at her gate moments later and testified that she passed within feet of Hoskins and was disturbed by an intense look he gave her.

Stephens testified that seven weeks later, on May 29, he shot Hoskins twice after the homeless man again scaled the wall at Madonna's estate, cavorted atop her carport and apparently took a dip in her pool.

The shooting occurred, Stephens said, after Hoskins lunged at him and tried to take his gun.

After the verdicts Monday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rhonda Saunders said the prosecution of Hoskins demonstrates California's tough stance on stalking. In 1990 it became the first state to pass a law prohibiting such behavior.

"This sends a message to the victims of stalkers that they can come forward," Saunders said, calling Madonna "something of a role model" despite her initial reluctance to testify.

Madonna had testified that she resisted because she was frightened of Hoskins and did not want to fulfill his fantasies of seeing her face-to-face.

Hoskins could receive a maximum 11-year prison term. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 8.

Judge Jacqueline A. Connor, who presided over Hoskins' trial, could request that he be placed in a facility with a psychiatric unit, Saunders said.

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