YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Boy, 15, Is Held in Contempt of Court After Refusing to Testify in Slaying of Transient

Trial: The inmate balks at being a witness against defendant in the beating death of a homeless man in Ventura. He is expected to be called to the stand again.


A Ventura County judge held a 15-year-old boy in contempt of court Wednesday for refusing to testify against a teen accused of participating in the seaside slaying of a homeless man.

Rocky Mattley took the stand but refused to be a witness against 19-year-old Robert Coffman, who is charged with murder and attempted murder in the June 30, 2001, beating of a transient and an unrelated stabbing of a teen a day later.

Prosecutors wanted to question Mattley about the stabbing and offered him immunity. But he refused to say a word.

"Mr. Mattley refused to even speak his name in court," Deputy Dist. Atty. Stacy Ratner said. "He will definitely be prosecuted for contempt."

The beating and stabbing occurred during a roughly 24-hour period near Surfers Point in Ventura.

Mattley faced no charges in connection with the assault but was charged and later convicted of second-degree murder for his role in the slaying of James Clark, 58.

He is serving time at a California Youth Authority facility.

On Wednesday, Ratner said prosecutors decided to try Mattley in Juvenile Court after he agreed to testify against Coffman--an agreement Ratner contends the boy is now violating.

If tried as an adult, Mattley could have faced a possible life prison sentence.

As a juvenile, he can be held only until age 25.

Mattley gave no explanation for his refusal to testify. But inmates often refuse to testify in criminal cases for fear of being known behind bars as someone who cooperates with law enforcement.

Mattley is expected to be recalled to the stand this week. If he refuses to testify, he could again be held in contempt and potentially face additional charges.

In other developments Wednesday, three girls testified about conversations they had with or overhead among Coffman, Mattley and two other boys charged in the fatal beating of Clark.

Glancing nervously at the defendant, Stephanie Gonzalez, 14, testified that two days after the slaying she heard the boys talking about a fight with a man at the beach.

She said Coffman told her he had stomped and kicked the man in the face. She said he also talked about stabbing a teen.

"Do you remember Robert telling you he thought he killed both people?" Ratner asked.

"Yes," Gonzalez whispered.

"Was he bragging about it or just saying it sort of matter-of-fact?" Ratner asked.

"I guess he was just sort of proud of what he did," she said.

Testimony is scheduled to resume today.

Los Angeles Times Articles