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Conviction against Lucy of 'Charlie Brown' voided in UCLA animal rights case

March 14, 2009|Jia-Rui Chong

A judge voided the conviction of Pamelyn Ferdin, the voice of the character Lucy in some "Charlie Brown" specials, for violating an injunction against demonstrations near the homes of UCLA primate researchers, her attorney said.

The homes of some UCLA researchers have been targeted in recent years by animal rights activists. UC regents secured a restraining order last year against several individuals and animal rights organizations, including the UCLA Primate Freedom Project. The injunction, which was served against the website uclaprimate-, prohibited distribution of researchers' addresses and phone numbers, said Ferdin's attorney, George Seide. But, Seide said, the order did not include Ferdin or uclaprimatefreedom.org, where Ferdin downloaded a list of such information.

On June 14, Ferdin, 49, of Agoura Hills handed out fliers with the personal information without knowing about the injunction, Seide said. She was convicted of contempt of court on Nov. 6. She faced a $1,000 fine, 120 hours of community service and five days in jail.

During the court process, Ferdin was not advised about her 5th and 6th Amendment rights, the right to avoid self-incrimination and the right to have an attorney, respectively, said Seide, who began representing Ferdin on Wednesday. On that day, he argued that the court should repeal the conviction, and Judge John L. Segal in Santa Monica agreed. They set a new trial date for April 28.

When the case proceeds, Seide said, he would make another constitutional argument. "If you restrict a constitutional right to gather, you can't violate an order unless you know what the order is," Seide said.

"The only reason my client was cited was because she was a child actress and would get the most publicity," Seide said. "You get bang for your buck if you stop Lucy from the 'Charlie Brown' specials and Felix Unger's daughter in 'The Odd Couple.' "

Kevin Reed, UCLA's vice chancellor for legal affairs, said in a statement Friday that the overturning of the conviction had to do with technicalities in the legal process rather than the merits of the case.

"The technicality in no way undermines the serious nature of Ms. Ferdin's conduct or the fact that the judge found in November that she blatantly disregarded an order prohibiting actions that incite illegal harassment and violence directed at UCLA personnel," he said. "The university is committed to retrying Ms. Ferdin at the earliest possible convenience and is confident of prevailing."

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jia-rui.chong@latimes.com

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