Lady Justice 3 16-9

A Los Angeles firefighter was convicted Thursday of assaulting a woman who fed stray cats in his West Adams neighborhood.

The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated about 90 minutes before finding Ian Justin Eulian, 39, guilty of one felony count each of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury.

The jury also found true an allegation that Eulian personally inflicted great bodily injury on Rebecca Stafford during the run-in on Sept. 14, 2013.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jose I. Sandoval allowed Eulian to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing June 30. He is facing a maximum seven-year state prison term, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Defense attorney Robert A. Schwartz said he and his client were “deeply disappointed” with Eulian’s conviction.

“It’s basically the same case as we presented to another jury,” Schwartz said of the first trial, in which jurors deadlocked 7-5 in favor of guilt on one count and 6-6 on the other charge last September. “This verdict undermines my faith in the jury trial system. There was a legitimate defense of self-defense and defense of my client’s (then) 70-year-old mother.”

Eulian’s mother, Lonieta Fontaine, was initially charged with one count of accessory after the fact in the case, but the prosecution decided not to go forward with a retrial against her to improve the “efficiency of the case,” according to Deputy District Attorney Joshua Ritter.

During Eulian’s first trial, the prosecutor told jurors that Eulian was “blind with rage” when he pulled Stafford from her car and knocked her unconscious following a dispute in which she threw cat kibble at him.

The deputy district attorney called the attack “brutal,” “vicious” and “senseless.”

The woman testified during the first trial that she remembered Eulian “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.”

Stafford 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.

Schwartz countered that Eulian was “coming to the defense and protection of his 70-year-old mother” during the confrontation with Stafford, telling jurors in the first trial that “it seems obvious that Ms. Stafford violently kicked Lonieta Fontaine.”

“The issue is what extreme circumstances did it take for Mr. Eulian to do what he did,” Schwartz told jurors in the first trial, saying later there was “more to the case” than just the surveillance videotape from a nearby building of the confrontation.

Eulian testified in his own defense during the first trial, saying that 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 has alleged that the two told Stafford that she tripped and hit her face on her vehicle.

City News Service

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