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Lawyer Knew of Kidnapping, Documents Say

November 17, 2000|SALLY ANN CONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The lawyer for fugitive Jesse James Hollywood learned that his client was involved in the kidnapping of a 15-year-old West Hills boy, but never called police and the boy was later killed, Santa Barbara County prosecutors allege in court documents.

Hollywood contacted Simi Valley attorney Stephen Hogg hours after the kidnapping of Nicholas Markowitz on Aug. 6, according to court papers made public this month.

Prosecutors say they learned of Hogg's involvement through a Hollywood family friend, John Roberts, who told investigators he was contacted by Hogg for advice on how to persuade Hollywood to let the victim go.

Neither Hogg nor Roberts could be reached for comment.

The court papers were filed in connection with the grand jury indictment of Hollywood and four other defendants in the killing of Nicholas, who was shot nine times and left for dead near a rural Santa Barbara County trail on Aug. 8.

Prosecutors say they have offered immunity to Hogg, but he has refused to testify, citing attorney-client privilege and his rights against self-incrimination.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge William Gordon is weighing a request from the district attorney's office to compel Hogg's testimony.

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Ron Zonen, a deputy district attorney, noted that attorney-client privilege typically applies to cases in which an attorney learns of a crime after the fact.

"We are in the process of researching how attorney-client privilege works here, because we have a situation where a suspect was in the midst of a crime," Zonen said.

Hollywood, who is still at large, allegedly masterminded the kidnapping of Nicholas Markowitz because of a $36,000 marijuana debt owed by Nicholas' older brother, Benjamin.

Authorities say Hollywood was not present when Nicholas was taken from a Santa Barbara hotel to Los Padres National Forest and shot to death. But California law allows anyone who participates in a kidnapping that ends in death to be charged with murder.

The case has garnered headlines across California because of the manhunt that continues for Hollywood, 20, of West Hills.

Along with Hollywood, four others have been indicted by the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury on charges of murder and kidnapping. Those defendants are in custody and are to be arraigned Dec. 7.

The others are William R. Skidmore, 20, of Simi Valley; Jesse Taylor Rugge, 20, of Santa Barbara; Graham Pressley, 17, of Goleta; and Ryan James Hoyt, 21, of West Hills.

Authorities say Nicholas was kept at Rugge's house for part of his ordeal.

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