By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Both cases appear straightforward: Newman is portrayed in court documents as a child predator; Magnandonovan is the overzealous prosecutor who lacked judgment and deserved to be fired, according to Delgadillo, his top deputies and their private attorneys.
But court documents show that the downtown legal establishment ganged up on Magnandonovan with more zeal and purpose than they showed in getting to the bottom of the Newman case. The opportunistic decision by Delgadillo to fire an unwanted employee has resulted in a costly three-year effort to justify her termination — at taxpayer expense.
The intersection of the two cases also has exposed an overburdened and often lackadaisical criminal-justice system hampered by dispassionate prosecutors, sloppy court files and thin-skinned judges. “I’ve never seen a bigger mess in my life,” defense attorney Gerald Klausner told the court on August 24, 2004, in describing Newman’s confusing misdemeanor court file. “If Lynn was a defense attorney, she’d be respected for being such a firebrand,” says a former colleague of Magnandonovan’s from the City Attorney’s Office. “Some judges just weren’t used to people from this office giving a shit.”
Dragged into the whole mess, which has cost the city at least $1.25 million in legal fees, are five Los Angeles Superior Court judges who may have shown poor judgment by granting interviews in the one-sided employment investigation that called for Magnandonovan’s firing. Their participation has resulted in the disqualification of the entire Los Angeles court, forcing her lawsuit to be moved to Orange County, where a trial could last weeks. The judges have been subpoenaed and could end up testifying in court.
NEWMAN, WHO TURNS 28 IN MARCH, is, by his own admission, an emotionally troubled person who has struggled with his sexuality. A religious Jew who prays at temple three times a day, he suffers from osteoporosis, glandular dysfunction and a bleeding disorder, he says. Court records state that he once told a young friend he was forced to perform oral sex on a camp counselor at age 13. Because of his immaturity and impulsiveness, he says, he befriended teenagers easily. Because he is short, he blended in with them, say parents who recall his unsettling presence.
Some see him as a fine young man. Howard Fisher, a family friend and a lawyer in Beverly Hills, describes Newman as “sensitive, intelligent and considerate,” the kind of person to bring flowers to dinner. Others see him as a danger to minors, skilled at working his way into their homes. “I came downstairs one morning and he was in my kitchen,” says Timothy Harris, a screenwriter whose 13-year-old son had invited Newman to stay the night — without consequence. “He was the same size as my son, but he had a 5 o’clock shadow. I thought, he wants one of two things: to sell my son drugs or to fuck him.”
Once, Newman could count the children of Steven Spielberg and lawyer Robert Shapiro among his friends. He says he still keeps in touch with Shapiro’s wife, who has been supportive of him. Newman lived with the Shapiro family for a while. No allegations involving the Shapiro or Spielberg children ever surfaced. Shapiro, whose son Brent died recently of a drug overdose, declined to comment. “He knew a lot of people,” Shapiro’s other son, Grant, says of Newman. “I know about his allegations. Nothing ever happened with me. I no longer have a relationship with him.” Spielberg did not return calls.
In 1998, when Newman was 20, he was charged with 15 misdemeanor counts alleging he showed pornography to minors in an attempt to seduce them. There were seven minors; all were 13. They met Newman at the Century City Mall. According to court records, Newman sent pornographic cartoons via the Internet and called some of them and asked them about masturbation. Two of the minors told detectives that while they were at the movies, Newman placed his hands on their legs during sexual scenes and said, “Doesn’t that make you want to jerk off?”
On January 12, 1999, he pleaded no contest to contributing to the delinquency of minors, a misdemeanor. He was ordered not to be alone with anyone under 18. In March 2001, a judge ruled he violated the order, sentenced him to 545 days in jail and ordered him to register as a sex offender. “Through many sleepless nights, I realized my maturity level is sorely undeveloped,” he wrote to Judge Joseph Biderman on March 23, 2001. “Together with [my] insecurities, [this] has resulted in my inappropriate behavior.”
Newman underwent therapy, but his social life still involved minors. According to Patty Ostrander, her teenage son met Newman through a friend. One day in 2001, private investigator Kevin Berman came to her home and got her son to initiate an anonymous Internet exchange with Newman by posing as a teenager willing to meet him. Ostrander says Berman told her that he was hired by Spielberg. Court records confirm that Berman investigated Newman. Berman refused to confirm the name of his client or to comment.
IN HER LAWSUIT against the City Attorney’s Office, Magnandonovan says she was the victim of a witch-hunt. By the time Delgadillo took over in July 2001, she had alienated the office by filing a discrimination claim against her supervisors that led to a strained outcome. In exchange for dropping her claim, she became a supervisor in the Hate Crimes Division. Later she accused the office of refusing to recognize her status.
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