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Astronaut Avoids Assault Charges

Crime: Prosecutor says Buzz Aldrin was incited to strike man who called moon landings a hoax.

September 21, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office will not file charges against Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin for hitting a man who has long insisted the U.S. moon landings were a hoax.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Elizabeth Ratinoff, who is in charge of the district attorney's Beverly Hills office, said in a statement that Aldrin had been provoked into hitting Bart Sibrel of Nashville in the face in front of the Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills last week.

"Aldrin was confronted by ... Sibrel who arranged to surprise Aldrin and challenge his integrity about walking on the moon," Ratinoff said. "Video depicts Sibrel following Aldrin on the street and thrusting a Bible at Aldrin. Others attempted to protect Aldrin as he walked away from Sibrel.

"Ultimately, Sibrel called Aldrin a thief, liar and coward. Video depicts Aldrin striking Sibrel once in the face with a fist. Sibrel immediately turns to the camera crew present and appears to twice state, 'Did you get that?'

"Sibrel was not knocked down," Ratinoff said. "He sustained no visible injury. He did not seek medical attention. Aldrin has no prior criminal arrest history.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances," she added, "it is unlikely a jury would find Aldrin guilty of a misdemeanor battery charge."

The 72-year-old Aldrin's attorney, Robert O'Brien, said, "We welcome this decision and appreciate the prompt and professional manner in which the Beverly Hills Police Department and the Los Angeles district attorney's office handled this matter.

"We expect that in the future Mr. Sibrel will refrain from harassing Dr. Aldrin and his fellow Apollo astronauts."

Sibrel, at a Beverly Hills news conference, said he believed the district attorney's office was simply not inclined to prosecute a celebrity like Aldrin.

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