By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
WITH HIS INTEREST IN MOVIES, music and computers, and his access to a car and hot concert tickets, David Newman came off as a hip young guy. The son of a New York lawyer, he lived in Los Angeles, where he schmoozed with entertainment-industry players and the children of studio bosses, screenwriters and celebrities, such as Steven Spielberg and lawyer Robert Shapiro.
Teenagers could sense that Newman was older, even though, at 5-foot-5, he was close to their size. They were impressed that the 21-year-old had worked as an A&R representative with bands such as Limp Bizkit. He also impressed his teenage friends by showing off pictures of the Hilton sisters and other celebrities he knew.
Eventually a darker side of Newman surfaced. Sharing adult magazines and going on outings to the movies led to Newman’s suggestive talk about masturbation, and e-mails and phone calls from him in which he obsessed about sex and pornography, according to court records. Parents and law enforcers soon took notice, but for years, despite multiple arrests and his alleged attempts to seduce minors, he did as he pleased.
As a pattern of bad behavior emerged, the Los Angeles criminal-justice system boiled him down to a name, a case number and a court file — a partial sketch of either a manipulative child predator or a deeply troubled young man, whose father hired topnotch lawyers to keep him out of jail.
The excuses and glitches in the system varied, though from the perspective of some parents, they always seemed to work in Newman’s favor. Someone — perhaps a judge — failed to clarify the time he was to serve on a misdemeanor jail sentence, so it was reduced; Newman’s intolerance for gluten wouldn’t allow him to survive on jail food, so a judge placed him under house arrest; Newman moved to New York and couldn’t make all of his Los Angeles court dates, so his lawyer appeared in his absence.
One prosecutor was dead set against cutting him slack. Former Assistant City Attorney Lynn Magnandonovan was an aggressive and sometimes annoying adversary who fought tooth and nail to put Newman behind bars. Magnandonovan was already at odds with her supervisors for complaining about gender discrimination when Rocky Delgadillo took over as city attorney in July 2001. By then, Newman was sliding through the cracks in a legal system that wasn’t paying close enough attention.
When Newman walked out of court scot-free later that year under questionable circumstances, a gay Los Angeles judge accused Magnandonovan of attacking him for allowing it to happen. Soon Delgadillo’s office launched an investigation of Magnandonovan, for supposedly suggesting that the judge’s sexuality caused him to go soft on an alleged child molester. Before long the office expanded the investigation until it had enough dirt to end her career as a prosecutor.
Magnandonovan was not alone in her view of Newman, now 27. Parents saw him as a danger to their children. Last November, seven years after his first arrest for attempting to seduce a group of 13-year-olds, Newman pleaded no contest to a felony lewd act against a 15-year-old. For the first time, Newman contemplated the possibility of state prison.
On a recent Thursday, Newman was due in court in Van Nuys for sentencing. High-profile defense lawyer James Blatt appeared instead and asked for yet another delay — an expert witness had given birth and could not travel to testify for Newman. The District Attorney’s Office, which had felony jurisdiction over Newman, could not say where he was. Blatt assured the court he was in close contact with Newman. “He does not present any risks,” Blatt told a reporter.
Buried in a transcript of a hearing in which Newman was described as a flight risk was a cell-phone number with a Northern California area code: 925. The Weekly called, and Newman answered with a Brooklyn accent and an attitude. He was in New York. He claimed he was set up. “How’d you get this number?” he insisted. “I’m getting death threats. People are calling me a pedophile. Nothing ever happened. I’m being punished for being immature. I may be gay, but I’m not a pedophile. I never had sex with a minor. If I go to jail, I’m going to die.”
Talking nonstop for the next several minutes, Newman ranted about the company he was keeping when he was arrested in January 2004 and charged with molestation. He referred to his alleged victim as “white trash” and a “druggie.” In discrediting other witnesses, he pointed to a world of sex-crazed teenagers who he said meet their partners on MySpace.com. He said it was his past record — a misdemeanor for contributing to the delinquency of minors and six probation violations for being alone with minors — that caused him to plead no contest to this recent felony. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Newman and Magnandonovan are approaching closure of their seemingly intertwined ordeals. Magnandonovan, who was fired after devoting her life to putting criminals behind bars, claims Delgadillo violated her civil rights and city law. She has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city and is scheduled to go to trial February 6. Newman is to appear in court in Van Nuys for sentencing on February 16.