With jurors saying they were hopelessly deadlocked, a mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a Los Angeles firefighter accused of assaulting a woman who fed stray cats in his West Adams neighborhood.
Ian Justin Eulian, 38, is charged with one felony count each of battery with serious bodily injury and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. His 71-year-old mother, Lonieta Fontaine, is charged with one count of accessory after the fact.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick N. Wapner declared a mistrial after jurors said they could not reach a unanimous verdict after just more than one day of deliberations.
The jury’s foreman said the panel was split 7-5 for guilt on one count against Eulian and 6-6 on the other. Unable to reach consensus on the charges against Eulian, the jury’s foreman said the panel never even voted on the charge against Fontaine.
Another hearing in the case was set for Oct. 30.
The prosecution has not yet decided whether it will retry the case, according to Greg Risling of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Outside court, the alleged victim, Rebecca Stafford, said she was “really disappointed” that jurors did not reach a verdict.
In closing arguments Friday, Deputy District Attorney Joshua Ritter told the eight-man, four-woman panel that Eulian was “caught red-handed on videotape.”
The prosecutor called the run-in “brutal, vicious and senseless,” and told jurors that Eulian was “blind with rage.”
Eulian’s attorney, Robert Schwartz, countered, “The issue is what extreme circumstances did it take for Mr. Eulian to do what he did last year.”
He told jurors that Eulian was “coming to the defense and protection of his 70-year-old mother” during the confrontation with Stafford, saying, “It seems obvious that Ms. Stafford violently kicked Lonieta Fontaine.”
Fontaine’s attorney, Garret Weinrieb, said his client was “falsely accused.”
He said Fontaine believed the woman had fallen and struck her head on her vehicle, and that his client hadn’t done anything to aid her son.
After the jury’s deadlock, Eulian’s attorney said outside court he was “a little disappointed” that jurors couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, saying he believes “there is a compelling defense.”
“There was more to the case than just the video,” Schwartz said of the surveillance videotape from a nearby building of the Sept. 14, 2013, confrontation.
Fontaine’s attorney said he believed jurors also “looked beyond just the videotape.”
But one of the jurors, John Cross, said he was among those who voted in favor of convicting Eulian “because of the video.”
“It’s self-explanatory,” he told reporters.
Eulian testified in his own defense during the trial, saying he had spoken to Stafford about her habit of feeding the cats and that she told him she would feed the strays at the end of an alley.
But on Sept. 14, 2013, he spotted her again and the two got into an expletive-filled shouting match in the 2500 block of West View Street.
He testified that she threw cat kibble at him and kicked him, and that he tried to punch Stafford after she allegedly kicked his mother.
Eulian admitted trying to punch Stafford while she was inside her Jeep, but said he missed. He said he pulled her out of the vehicle “to stop her from abusing my mother.”
He hit Stafford and she hit the ground, Eulian said.
Eulian said he and his mother eventually helped Stafford into her car and drove her home.
The prosecution alleged that the two told Stafford that she tripped and hit her face on her vehicle.
Stafford testified that she remembers Eulian, who is trained as an EMT, “reaching into my car and grabbing me. And I said, ‘Are you going to hit me?’ and then it was like lights out. I don’t remember anything until I woke up.”
She testified that she told Eulian multiple times during the confrontation to leave her alone and tried to assure him that she was not feeding the cats that day but just trying to catch one.
— City News Service