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Actress Pens Apology; Abuse Case Dropped

Judge exacts a penance after learning of remarks made on radio by Tawny Kitaen, who had agreed to plead guilty to hitting spouse.

October 30, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Actress Tawny Kitaen's domestic violence case was dismissed Wednesday, but only after an Orange County judge forced her to apologize in writing for remarks she made on Howard Stern's radio show.

Kitaen, accused of pummeling husband Chuck Finley -- a former Anaheim Angels pitcher then playing for the Cleveland Indians -- with her fists and high-heel shoes, had agreed to plead guilty and undergo counseling. The case was to be dismissed when she completed counseling, which she did.

But Judge Pamela L. Iles had a change of heart this month when she was told that Kitaen had appeared on Stern's popular morning radio show and told the shock jock that she'd been forced to plead guilty. She also denied having a drug problem.

Angered, Iles refused to dismiss the case until Kitaen wrote a letter of apology to the court. Iles said she wasn't aware of the broadcast, or the recapitulation of it on Stern's cable television show, until someone told her.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 08, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 News Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Tawny Kitaen -- An article in the California section on Oct. 30 incorrectly reported that actress Tawny Kitaen pleaded guilty to charges of beating her husband, pitcher Chuck Finley. She pleaded not guilty and the case was dismissed after she completed counseling.

The turn of events paralleled what happened after Sara Jane Olson, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, pleaded guilty to a failed 1975 bomb plot and then promptly told reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse that she hadn't been involved. Olson was later scolded by the judge and admitted guilt again.

Wednesday's proceedings were handled out of public view in Iles' chambers, and the written apology, along with other documents in the case, was sealed. Kitaen did not appear in court. Iles said she frequently handles cases in her offices rather than the courtroom.

"She completed all her requirements and did a real good job," Iles said. "She did everything she was supposed to."

Attorneys declined to offer insight into the proceeding, which ended a domestic violence case that became fodder for tabloid newspapers.

Kitaen starred in "Bachelor Party" with Tom Hanks and later became known for her sultry appearance on a video for the rock group Whitesnake. She was also host of the television show "America's Funniest People."

Kitaen was arrested April 1, 2002, after an argument with her husband while the two were having dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Irvine. According to court records, she "became loud, obnoxious and abusive" inside the restaurant.

Finley told police he decided to drive around Newport Beach in their Range Rover, hoping his wife would calm down before they returned home to their 9- and 4-year-old daughters.

But when they got home, Finley said, his wife hit, kicked and scratched him and then called 911 before hurling a telephone through the window of their car. Police said when they arrived, Kitaen ran through the neighborhood screaming at Finley and the family's maid.

Finley said in court documents that his wife was suicidal, kept knives under her bed and had a serious drug problem. He said she was also prone to outlandish fits of rage.

But in her September appearance on Stern's radio show, she said she was the victim. She also denied using drugs and alleged that Finley was a heavy drinker and steroid user.

The couple are divorcing.

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