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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Magician's Verdict Disappears as Jury Deadlocks

Courts: A man charged with drunk driving says chemicals from his fire-eating act were mistaken for alcohol. Jurors agreed 10-2.

April 28, 2001|JEAN GUCCIONE and RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A jury deadlocked Friday in the trial of a 32-year-old Westlake Village magician who said the chemicals he uses in his fire-eating act caused police to think he was driving drunk.

Most of the jurors believed him. They voted 10-2 to acquit Randall Richman, who said he was stopped by police just after teaching a fire-eating class at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

"I was hoping this was it," said Richman, who estimates the court case has cost him $35,000 in lawyers' fees and lost work.

"Here I am 17 months into this, and it's a mistrial," he said. He is determined not to settle, if prosecutors decide to try the case again.

"I would fight this. I have to," he said.

No one from the city attorney's office was available Friday to comment on the misdemeanor case.

Jurors said the prosecution failed to persuade them beyond a reasonable doubt that Richman had been drinking alcohol before his arrest.

"He obviously had something in his system," said Victoria Redburn-Hudson, 38, of Woodland Hills, "but the prosecution could not prove whether it was some toxic chemical he used in his act, or some beverage alcohol."

Tiffany Day, 33, of Valley Glen, said she too believed the chemicals he ingests during his act could have caused the positive breath-test reading.

"I just wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty," Day said. "We don't know how the breath machines read those chemicals."

The trial took nine days before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle.

Richman said he rushed to the Van Nuys Courthouse on Friday afternoon only to learn that the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. He was disappointed.

His lawyer, Andrew Radel, is prepared for a retrial, saying he would represent Richman again even--if he has to do it for free. "I am salivating as we talk about it," he said.

Richman, who lived in Studio City at the time of his arrest, was stopped by police just before midnight Dec. 7, 1999, for driving without a headlight. He also was driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone not carrying his driver's license.

According to the police report, his eyes were "bloodshot" and "watery," he was unable to stand and there was an "odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage" about him.

His breath-alcohol reading was 0.16% on the first test and 0.17% on the second--twice the legal driving limit of 0.08%.

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