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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Ex-Mouseketeer Testifies in Trip-and-Fall Case

November 10, 1998

VENTURA — Former Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie took the stand Monday in her boyfriend's lawsuit and denied allegations that the pair manufactured evidence to win a trip-and-fall civil case against the city of Ventura.

Gillespie, 56, told jurors that her longtime "sweetheart," Jerry J. Fraschilla, 61, stumbled over a loose board on March 4, 1997, while jogging on the Ventura Pier and threw out his back.

"I saw him trip," she testified. "I immediately came forward to see if he was all right."

Gillespie, an original member of the "Mickey Mouse Club" television show in the 1950s and an Oxnard resident, told the jury that she was a registered nurse for 25 years and advised her boyfriend to lie flat on the pier until medical help arrived.

She testified that he has suffered severe back and leg pain as a result of the fall, and had to be given a shot of pain medication Friday after sitting in court all day.

But lawyers for the city and one of its contractors have suggested Fraschilla had a preexisting back injury and filed a bogus lawsuit. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Gillespie's brief appearance in Ventura County Superior Court came three weeks before her scheduled trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on fraud charges.

Fraschilla, a retired businessman and ex-Marine, is awaiting sentencing in the same case after pleading guilty to 21 charges including perjury, conspiracy and securities fraud.

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