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Actor Convicted of Abusing Girlfriend

Tom Sizemore faces up to four years in jail for domestic violence and criminal threats against former 'Hollywood Madam' Heidi Fleiss.

August 16, 2003|Akilah Johnson | Times Staff Writer

Actor Tom Sizemore was convicted Friday of seven charges of abusing his girlfriend, former "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss. The 41-year-old television and movie star faces up to four years in jail.

Sizemore was acquitted of nine other misdemeanor charges by jurors who heard Fleiss weep repeatedly when she testified that Sizemore committed vandalism, threatened her, struck her and harassed her by phone.

Sizemore, who was found guilty of domestic violence, criminal threats and harassing phone calls, did not take the witness stand. "I'd like to put this behind me now, and do what I've always loved doing -- which is to make movies," Sizemore said after the verdict, speaking into a dozen microphones.

The actor faces another trial over allegations that he assaulted another ex-girlfriend in a December incident. Fleiss was to testify in that case.

Key evidence was more than 100 recorded phone messages in which Sizemore berates Fleiss in misogynistic and derogatory terms.

"It's rare that you have such powerful and compelling evidence in the defendant's own words," said Deputy City Atty. Robert Cha, who repeatedly quoted from transcripts in his concluding remarks to the jury.

"Why did he have the arrogance to leave these recorded messages? He himself described it perfectly: 'I'm an actor; you're a convicted felon, a garbage whore. Who's going to believe you?' The answer to that, ladies and gentlemen, is you," Cha told jurors.

Sizemore starred in "Black Hawk Down," "Saving Private Ryan" and a television serial drama last year based on the Los Angeles Police Department.

Fleiss leapt into the spotlight in 1993, when she was arrested for pimping, pandering and narcotics charges in her operation of a high-priced Hollywood call girl ring. She spent 21 months in federal prison for conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering charges.

Soon after her release in 1999, she and Sizemore got together and dated for about two years. They were engaged at one point during their relationship.

Sizemore's lawyer described Fleiss as a lying ex-con who tried to blackmail the man who "paid attention to her when no one else did."

Defense attorney Michael Fitzgerald said, "What gets her riled up are two things: One is jealousy; the other is money ... and that's what's motivating her here."

He suggested that Fleiss participated in the obscene war of words by making calls too, which were not taped.

"This was a two-sided street," Fitzgerald said. "Why does Heidi Fleiss get to vent and Mr. Sizemore commit[s] a crime?"

Admitting the two had a volatile relationship, Fitzgerald argued to jurors that prosecutors had failed to prove his client abused Fleiss. The injuries showed in various photographs could have come from anywhere, including her friend Mike Tyson, he said.

"If Ms. Fleiss had a bruise, you don't know how she got it, if she slipped and fell or if Mike Tyson hit her," Fitzgerald said.

No evidence of a violent relationship with Tyson was presented during the trial, but Sizemore's taped messages do include racial epithets directed at the former heavyweight boxing champion.

Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 2. Cha said his office believes that Sizemore should go to jail for his crimes.

"I think the message here is that regardless of your socioeconomic status, or regardless of how the public may perceive you, or regardless of celebrity, if there is ... violence upon a woman, we will ... prosecute," Cha said.

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