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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | East County / Thousand Oaks

Charges Reduced in Assault Case

October 17, 2000|TRACY WILSON

Ventura County prosecutors have dropped felony charges against a former Westlake High School football player accused of assaulting two teens at a Thousand Oaks house party earlier this year.

Chris Catalano, 18, will instead face two misdemeanor charges of assault and battery. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Monday in Ventura County Superior Court.

A trial date is set for Nov. 27.

The reduction in charges means Catalano, now a student and football player at the University of Wisconsin, faces up to 18 months in jail rather than a maximum four years in prison if convicted.

At a preliminary hearing last month, witnesses testified that Catalano, a standout high school wide receiver, chased two 19-year-old teens who showed up at a house party on Calle de Oro.

Some witnesses said Catalano kicked and punched the victims in the street. But the defense called a medical expert who testified that none of the injuries was severe.

At the close of the hearing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Douglas Ridley argued that Catalano was the leader of an aggressive mob that could have seriously injured the victims.

Superior Court Judge Donald Coleman ordered Catalano to stand trial on the felony charges, but expressed doubt about whether the counts should be felonies or misdemeanors.

After the hearing, prosecutors reduced the charges.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Redmond, who supervises the felony unit, said his office reviews all cases after the preliminary hearing and decided Catalano's case was "more consistent with our filings of a misdemeanor [assault] than a felony."

The decision was based on several factors, including witness testimony, the extent of the victims' injuries and the fact that no weapons were used in the fight, Redmond said. He said prosecutors were also swayed by Catalano's lack of a criminal record.

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