Lady  Justice 16-9

A deputy U.S. marshal was convicted Thursday of obstruction of justice for making false statements to Los Angeles police detectives about a fatal shooting he was involved in seven years ago.

Matthew Itkowitz was acquitted of a second obstruction count.

The lawman faces a possible maximum of 20 years in federal prison at an Oct. 19 sentencing hearing.

The conviction stems from intentionally misleading comments Itkowitz made to investigators following the March 5, 2008 shooting of Ryan Gonzalez in a dark alley near Melrose Avenue.

Itkowitz fatally shot the 26-year-old Gonzalez after the victim intervened in an argument between the off-duty deputy marshal and his wife.

Twelve hours after the shooting, Itkowitz falsely described to detectives with the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division the sequence of events that led to the killing.

Itkowitz told the detectives that he pulled his weapon in self-defense after Gonzalez punched him in the face and threatened him with a gun.

Unaware that a surveillance recording existed, Itkowitz falsely claimed that he “popped up” and shot Gonzalez immediately after being knocked to the ground, at his first opportunity to draw his weapon, while the victim had a gun pointed at him, according to federal prosecutors.

The surveillance footage, which was played and analyzed for the jury, told a different story, prosecutors said.

In the video, Gonzalez and Itkowitz are seen fighting when Gonzalez pulls out what appears to be a small gun and points the firearm at Itkowitz. Itkowitz appears to brush the weapon aside, and Gonzalez puts the gun away as the two men talk before parting and walking away from each other.     Instead of shooting in self-defense, as Itkowitz told investigators, the deputy marshal doesn’t fire until after the two men had begun heading in separate directions, suggesting that Gonzalez — who no longer appeared have a gun in his hand — did not pose the immediate threat the lawman claimed.

As Gonzalez walked toward the tattoo parlor he managed, Itkowitz was seen in the video apparently taking a gun from his pants and holding it behind his right leg.

Gonzalez then turned back toward Itkowitz and apparently motioned for him to leave, and when he didn’t, Gonzalez walked back in Itkowitz’s direction.

He was about a dozen feet away when Itkowitz raised his gun and fired, according to prosecutors. They said the off-duty marshal shot Gonzalez five times while chasing him down the alley.

At least two rounds struck Gonzalez in the back, autopsy results showed.

Itkowitz was acquitted of a second obstruction count linked to a statement he allegedly made to a supervisor in which he said he had been “attacked by two Hispanics.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Middleton told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday that Itkowitz lied to investigators before finding out that his actions had been captured by a surveillance camera.

“He didn’t know there was a video when he stated he had ‘popped up,”‘ Middleton said.

But defense attorney Chris Dybwad argued that his client’s statements were the result of trauma, a shot of morphine he was given at a hospital, and a faulty memory of the night’s events.

“Memory is not a recording device,” Dybwad said, arguing that Itkowitz had no motive to lie since “the shooting itself was within policy.”

Itkowitz was “not knowingly making any false statements,” the defense attorney told the jury, which began deliberating Wednesday afternoon and spent about three hours in discussions Thursday.

The defendant was originally charged with four federal counts, including deprivation of rights under color of law and using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

But U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez dismissed the two non- obstruction charges, finding that prosecutors offered insufficient evidence to sustain convictions on those counts.

Itkowitz — who previously worked at the courthouse where he was tried — initially faced the possibility of life in federal prison if convicted of the four original charges.

A wrongful death case brought by Gonzalez’s family against the federal government — Itkowitz’s employer at the time of the shooting — is pending in federal court.

— City News Service 

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