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Sister of Stow beating suspect testifies, seems eager to aid defense

Dorene Sanchez, who has a child with the other suspect, is a prosecution witness but offers a more benign portrait of the pair's conduct outside Dodger Stadium than others. She says she didn't see the fight.

June 08, 2012|By Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times
  • Marvin Norwood, left, and Louie Sanchez, right, are suspects in the beating of Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium last year. They are represented in court by attorney Victor Escobedo, center.
Marvin Norwood, left, and Louie Sanchez, right, are suspects in the beating… (Irfan Khan )

Since the arrest of two men last summer in a brutal beating at Dodger Stadium, Dorene Sanchez's role in the case had remained a mystery.

The fiancee of one suspect and the sister of the other, the 32-year-old Rialto woman was booked alongside the men as an accessory after the fact for driving them from the ballpark, but she began cooperating with prosecutors who subsequently opted not to pursue charges against her.

In a courtroom Thursday, Sanchez revealed herself as crucial to the government's case despite having a clear desire to help the men prosecutors are trying to convict.


FOR THE RECORD:
The headline in an earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the first name of witness Dorene Sanchez as Norene.

The final witness in a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, she offered a perspective no other witness could — the view from inside the alleged getaway car. She recalled her brother, Louie Sanchez, with panic in his voice, screaming for her to "get ... out of here!" and said she saw blood on the hand of her fiance, Marvin Norwood.

"I said, 'Babe, what the hell?' And he said, 'Don't worry about it, babe,' " she recalled.

But in two hours of testimony, which is to continue Friday, Sanchez appeared eager to aid the defense. She grinned at her brother and repeatedly flashed smiles at Norwood, with whom she has a child. She told the judge that she did not see the fight that left Giants fan Bryan Stow with brain damage and that the men never admitted involvement.

At a diner that night, her brother told their parents he had gotten into an altercation with some men who disrespected them, she said. Later, she testified, Norwood told her that they were "jumped" and had to fight back to protect themselves.

When she and Norwood watched a television report about the severity of Stow's injuries a few days after the beating, "we kind of looked at it in awe. Like wow, what happened? And we felt bad for the guy," she said.

After Norwood's arrest, he told her on the phone that there were fights all over the parking lot that night and that the one he and her brother participated in did not involve Stow, according to a recording of the call played in court.

Louie Sanchez and Norwood have pleaded not guilty to mayhem, assault and other charges. Sanchez testified against them with a grant of immunity from prosecutors. To a clerk administering the standard oath to tell the truth, she replied, "Yes," and then pointedly repeated the last line: "So help me God."

Before questioning Sanchez about what she saw at the opening day game last year, Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman grilled her about her ongoing relationship with the defendants — evidence, the prosecutor told the judge, of possible bias in her testimony.

Sanchez acknowledged visiting Norwood in jail every weekend and said they talked by phone nightly. Asked about their previous evening's conversations, Sanchez said she told Norwood, "Babe, you'll be fine. Go in there and own the courtroom."

In her retelling of the events leading up to the game, Sanchez presented a more benign portrait of her brother and Norwood's conduct than other witnesses.

She acknowledged that Louie Sanchez was loud, rude and profane during the game, even encouraging his 10-year-old son to throw peanuts at Giants supporters, but she denied that he and Norwood smoked pot in the parking lot afterward or assaulted a group of teenagers who passed by in Giants regalia.

She also painted an initial parking lot confrontation between the defendants and Stow's group of four Giants fans as a mutual fight rather than the unprovoked attack other witnesses have described. She referred to a "crowd of Giants fans," said one was so drunk he had trouble walking and described Norwood pushing them away when they grabbed at her brother.

A bystander testified earlier in the hearing that it was Dorene Sanchez who stoked a second assault by telling her brother and Norwood that the men had made disrespectful comments. Sanchez said she heard one Giants fan say, "Why do they have to take things so serious ... like a heart attack" and told her brother the men had been talking about them.

Louie Sanchez and Norwood responded by racing after the Giants fans, but she denied she had provoked the fight.

"It was simple conversation," she said of her remark to her brother. "It wasn't like I was egging them on."

In the car as they rushed out of the stadium, she said, her brother told his son, "Don't say anything about this." The men said little else about what happened and the discussion eventually turned to where to eat.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli is to rule Friday on whether the government has enough evidence to proceed to trial.

harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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