LOS ANGELES -- A man who admitted he tried to steal trucker Reginald Denny's possessions at the start of the Los Angeles riots was sentenced Friday to three years in prison.
Meanwhile, attorneys for three men accused of beating Denny suffered another setback as a Superior Court judge denied their bid to order the District Attorney's Office to produce 14 years of records that they say prove a pattern of racial discrimination by Los Angeles police and prosecutors.
Gary Williams, 35, pleaded guilty March 16 to attempted grand theft for going through Reginald Denny's pockets and assault and robbery of Feliz Lopez in the melee at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues, the flashpoint of the April 29, 1992, riots.
Denny, who is white, was dragged from his big rig and beaten nearly to death by a mob of black men just hours after four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.
The Denny attack was videotaped by news cameras in helicopters and by private citizens on the ground. Some of the tapes are to be used as prosecution evidence against the three men charged with beating Denny. Their trial is scheduled to start in April.
Superior Court Judge Bernard Kamins sentenced Williams to three years in prison under a plea agreement. He had faced a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
Through his court-appointed attorney, Eileen Bender, Williams told the judge he was sorry for his crime. 'Mr. Williams deeply regrets any harm suffered by the victims of the civil unrest last year,' Bender said.
Kamins, noting Williams' three prior convictions for unrelated robberies near the same intersection, ordered him to stay at least one block from that area.
Williams was one of four men initially charged with the Denny attack. The defendants' supporters contend that the so-called L.A. 4 are victims of a criminal courts system that treats black suspects more harshly than whites.
The other three, Damian Williams, 20, no relation to Gary Williams; Antoine Miller, 20, and Henry Watson, 28, appeared at a pretrial hearing later Friday. They are charged with attempted murder, aggravated mayhem and other crimes.
In seeking the district attorney records, attorney Janet Maginnis argued that while the District Attorney's Office harshly prosecutes black defendants accused of violent crimes, it refuses to prosecute Los Angeles police officers, for example, charged with similar offenses.
'This conflict of interest has always existed between the DA's office and the Police Department,' she said.
Deputy District Attorney Larry Morrision denied any racial discrimination.
Judge Kamins denied the defense's bid for the records, saying the research involved would unduly delay the upcoming trial. However, the judge said his action did not preclude them from trying to prove discrimination later.