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Garcetti Says Threats in Letter Scared Him

Courts: Prosecutor testifies that he gets many angry communications but that this one made him fear for family's safety.

September 25, 1997|GREG KRIKORIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti told a jury Wednesday that he genuinely feared for the safety of his wife and daughter after being notified of a menacing letter allegedly prompted by a man's loss of his life savings in a dispute over child support.

"There wasn't an [immediate] threat to me," said Garcetti, whose office supervises the collection of delinquent child support payments.

"No one was going to try and break in this office and try to kill me," he said, recalling how he read a copy of the May 5 letter during a late afternoon staff meeting in his secured downtown office.

But when he could not reach his daughter at work, Garcetti testified, he called his wife at home and conveyed his concerns about the letter.

"I told her," Garcetti said, his voice suddenly choking with emotion, "I thought this was a real threat."

But immediately after Garcetti testified in the trial of Roberto Lansing, 56, of Hollywood, the defendant's attorney played a taped police interview of Lansing in which the native of Brazil denied making any threats.

Speaking in broken English, Lansing also insisted during his tape-recorded arrest that his cryptic letter was prompted by a nightmare about his own family's demise.

"I took about . . . 50 aspirins and then I woke up," Lansing said in the interview with two district attorney's investigators. "I dreamed that . . . I had lost the house . . . I was dead and I saw . . . my mother, my father, you know, all my, all my family . . . on a table [in] a kind of mortuary."

He said he saw about 100 people in the dream, including judges and police officers and "my God, I . . . remembered I wrote a letter to . . . Mr. Garcetti."

Authorities allege that Lansing wrote two threatening letters, both directed at Garcetti, after the defendant's $10,000 bank account was seized by the state Franchise Tax Board in March, four months after a child support dispute between Lansing and his ex-wife had been resolved.

When arrested, authorities said, Lansing not only had a loaded M-1 carbine at his home but books and pamphlets on the use of firearms and explosives.

Lansing's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carol Whyte, has countered that her client did not threaten harm to anyone but was angry after the district attorney's oft-criticized family support division did not notify the state that the dispute between Lansing and his former wife had been settled. During his taped interview with investigators, Lansing said he had made about 500 calls to the D.A.'s office, hoping they could prevent the state from seizing his life savings.

Moreover, Whyte has established during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses that Lansing, a onetime gunsmith, voluntarily turned over the rifle. And the books on weapons were among more than 2,000 books--on a range of subjects--in the house.

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