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Judge Upholds Valli's Battery Conviction : Court: He rules jurors weren't biased. Singer's wife was found guilty of slapping Moorpark restaurateur.

September 01, 1999|TRACY WILSON and CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Upholding Randy Valli's misdemeanor battery conviction, a Ventura County judge Tuesday denied the homemaker's request for a new trial on grounds jurors in her Ventura County Superior Court trial were biased.

Valli, the wife of '60s singing icon Frankie Valli, was found guilty of misdemeanor battery four months ago for slapping a Moorpark restaurant owner during a dispute over the price of a meal.

The lengthy post-trial litigation centered on allegations a male juror made angry remarks about Valli's lawyer during deliberations--remarks the defense contends biased the jury against Valli.

In a 20-page written ruling released late Tuesday, Judge Herbert Curtis disagreed. Curtis ruled the juror did not express a bias strong enough to invalidate the jury's unanimous decision.

"Assuming the court were to find that Juror No. 11 did express negative opinions about defense counsel, such comments did not automatically sustain a claim of actual prejudice against defendant herself," Curtis said in his ruling. "In the final analysis, even if the court were to find that bias existed, it clearly had a harmless effect on the verdict."

In June, the defense called three jurors to testify on statements allegedly made by that juror. They told Curtis the juror criticized defense attorney Louis "Chuck" Samonsky for his role in a high-profile murder case, saying Samonsky was the same lawyer who withheld information on the location of a missing Oak View teen, Kali Manley, in December.

"That's the [expletive] who let the little girl lie in a ditch in Ojai," one juror testified, referring to the male juror's alleged statement. "He said, 'I guess I should have mentioned that to the judge before I was seated.' "

Samonsky, a longtime criminal defense attorney who attempted to protect suspect David Alvarez by concealing the location of Manley's body, contended the juror hid a bias throughout Valli's two-week trial in April.

Samonsky said he was disappointed in the ruling and had expected the judge to rule in his client's favor.

"The judge made a factual finding that he intended to believe . . . Juror 11 over several other jurors, and that finding made it easy for him to determine that there was not a significant bias shown," he said.

Samonsky said he and Valli had not decided whether to appeal.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Allyson Kimmel said she was pleased with the judge's decision, and hopeful the case would now draw to a close.

"He evaluated the law and the evidence presented and found that the motion should be properly denied," Kimmel said. "We are very pleased that a proper verdict stands."

A court hearing is set for Thursday, when the attorneys are expected to discuss how the case should proceed.

Valli, a Calabasas resident who faces six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, has not been sentenced on the battery conviction. Kimmel said she will request the matter be set for sentencing.

"I think it is best for all parties if it ends," she said. "A lot of time was expended on this case and on these motions."

Wilson is a Times staff writer, Blake is a Times Community News reporter.

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