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Actress Admits Lying About Role in TV Show Con

Alison Ann Heruth had claimed innocence after pleading guilty. She was called back to clarify.

September 01, 2006|Greg Krikorian and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

After recently professing her innocence, a Hollywood actress returned to court Thursday to again admit that she had lied to federal agents about her role in an elaborate con involving a bogus television show based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Tearful and trembling, Alison Ann Heruth made the admission after U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real pointedly questioned her public comments last month that she was not guilty of a crime and felt pressured by her attorney to strike a plea bargain with prosecutors.

On Aug. 14, Heruth, 41, was sentenced to five years' probation and 2,500 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $3.4 million in restitution after acknowledging that she had lied when she said she did not know that the proposed show was part of a scam that bilked investors of millions of dollars.

But in an interview with The Times after her sentencing, Heruth maintained her innocence, saying that she always believed that the show's producer, Joseph Medawar, planned to follow through with his idea.

Heruth also told The Times that she felt pressured by her court-appointed attorney, Thomas T. Nishi, to take the plea bargain rather than go to trial because he persuaded her that there was not enough time or resources to prepare an adequate defense.

Her comments to The Times prompted Thursday's hearing.

"I do not accept pleas from people who claim they are not guilty and blame it on their attorney," Real told Heruth.

"I now want to know whether you wish to withdraw your plea," he said.

Responding that "life isn't black and white," Heruth sought to explain her comments to the judge. "I am not the monster I was made out to be," she said.

But Real persisted, insisting that the actress declare in court whether she would continue to maintain her innocence despite the sworn plea agreement.

Finally, after huddling with her new attorney, Ed Robinson, Heruth meekly answered the judge.

"No," she said.

Outside court, federal prosecutor David Willingham said authorities were gratified at the outcome of the hearing.

"The government is pleased she affirmed her guilt," he said.

Heruth's former attorney, Nishi, also said he was pleased that his onetime client acknowledged publicly what she had previously admitted in writing.

"No one likes to have their name dragged through the mud," Nishi said, alluding to Heruth's comments last month about his representation.

"It is nice to get it over with," Nishi said.

Heruth and her attorney had no comment other than his observation that, "Everything [now] is as it was."

Heruth had faced up to 27 months in federal prison for her admitted role in the investment scam.

greg.krikorian@latimes.com christine.hanley@latimes.com

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