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Jail cell tape may be key in Stow beating

'Wow, we're done,' says one suspect to the other. Judge rules the pair will face trial.

June 09, 2012|Harriet Ryan
  • Marvin Norwood, right, his attorney Victor Escobedo and Louie Sanchez listen during the preliminary hearing on Friday.
Marvin Norwood, right, his attorney Victor Escobedo and Louie Sanchez… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

In a jail cell the day after their arrests, the suspects in the Dodger Stadium assault expressed amazement at the evidence detectives had amassed against them, with one remarking that police "know everything, bro" and the other saying, "Wow, we're done."

"How much time do you think we are going to get?" one suspect, Marvin Norwood, asked.

"A lot," replied his alleged accomplice, Louie Sanchez.

A transcript of the July conversation recorded by jail authorities was made public Friday after a judge in Los Angeles determined that prosecutors have enough evidence to try the two. Superior Court Judge George Lomeli's ruling was expected; but the transcript, released along with other court exhibits, revealed that some of the most damaging evidence against the men came from their own mouths and, ironically, in a discussion about how they could help their chances in court.

Placed together in a holding cell as they awaited a police lineup, the men immediately began comparing notes about the evidence against them in last year's opening day beating of a San Francisco Giants fan, Bryan Stow. Norwood, who had met with investigators, said detectives had tracked down photos of them at the game, questioned people who had seen them in the parking lot where the altercation occurred and interviewed Sanchez's 10-year-old son.

"Porky talked?" Sanchez asked, referring to the boy by a family nickname. "What did he say?"

Norwood said the boy, who had attended the game, told police "everything," including that his father had kicked a Giants fan in the neck. Sanchez swore and called his son "stupid."

"We need to come up with a good ... defense," Norwood said.

They talked about telling their lawyers that they had been set upon by a "gang" of "big white dudes" who were harassing Sanchez's son and his sister, Dorene, Norwood's fiancee.

"This is the story.... There was six or seven ... of them. They were all bigger than me," Sanchez said. Later in the conversation, he acknowledged a man who had disrespected his family: "I socked him ... jumped him and started beating him."

Sanchez, 30, and Norwood, 31, have pleaded not guilty. They will be arraigned June 22 and face maximum sentences of 11 and nine years, respectively, if convicted of mayhem, assault and other charges.

Stow was attacked as he and three other Giants fans, all Bay Area paramedics, walked through the parking lot after the Dodger win. More than a dozen witnesses from the game testified during the six-day preliminary hearing. Some offered vivid accounts of boorish, drunken and profane behavior by Sanchez against Giants fans. Others recalled in chilling detail how a sucker punch from a man in a Dodger jersey sent Stow to the ground, fracturing his skull and leaving him with permanent brain damage.

But none of the witnesses could positively identify Sanchez or Norwood as having delivered the punch, and many of those closest to the altercation were unable to pick either defendant out during police lineups. Defense attorneys seized on this lack of witness identification in arguing for a dismissal of the charges, a request the judge denied.

A prosecutor, Michele Hanisee, told the judge that it was "hardly surprising ... that not many identifications were made" given the circumstances. The lot was crowded, dimly lighted and filled with rowdy and in many cases drunk fans wearing similar blue and white clothing.

She argued that the conditions made the jailhouse conversation between Sanchez and Norwood more significant. She said they tried to mitigate their own role in the case and exaggerate the threat the group posed to them, and she said that a talk between two men not involved at all in Stow's beating would have played out much differently.

"They were trying to come up with their defense," she said.

The recording was among a number of taped conversations considered by the judge. In one, Norwood told his mother that he had been arrested for "that Dodger Stadium thing" and admitted he "was involved." In another, Norwood told Dorene Sanchez that the men he and her brother had fought were Mexican, not white like Stow.

In ruling that prosecutors had established enough evidence for a trial, the judge noted that the burden of proof was "strong suspicion," much less than the reasonable doubt required for a conviction. In delivering his decision, the judge said the evidence indicated Norwood had tried initially to act as a peacemaker when Sanchez taunted and attacked rival fans but later joined in the violence.

"I think things got out of hand and he probably lost control of Mr. Sanchez," Lomeli said.

Both men were shackled and returned to jail after his decision. Outside court, Dorene Sanchez broke into tears as her lawyer told her the judge had ordered the men to stand trial. The final and most important witness for the prosecution at the hearing, she had testified under a grant of immunity that her fiance and her brother had run after the Giants fans and returned shaken and, in Norwood's case, with blood on his hands.

"That's my heart," she said of the men. She has a toddler daughter with Norwood. Asked what outcome she thought would be fair, she paused and then said, "I choose not to answer."

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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