In this assault case, the puzzle pieces don’t fit

By Christopher Goffard

June 27, 2011

Part Two: A detective can find nothing to place Las Vegas banker Louis Gonzalez III at the scene of a vicious attack at his ex-girlfriend’s house in 2008.

…Del Marto turned to his partner. “I don’t know how he could have done this,” he said…

…On April 21, 2008, the day before the hearing was to begin, prosecutors learned that West was in the hospital. They had obtained a note in what appeared to be West’s handwriting.

“The DA asking me to relive my horror of Louis Gonzalez attack is more than I can bear. For them it is a case. For me it is my life shattered,” read the note. “I died of Rx overdose — suicide.”

Later, in family court, West would say she did not remember writing the note and blamed the hospitalization on drugs her psychiatrist prescribed.

At 5:26 p.m. on April 22, prosecutor Andrea Tischler sent defense attorneys a brief email: With West unavailable to testify, they were dropping the case. For now…

…A custody judge withheld visitation, concerned Gonzalez might still face criminal charges. Another complication was West’s restraining order, which hung over him for months after his release, until she withdrew it just as his legal team was preparing to attack it in court.

A judge awarded him $55,000 for legal fees he incurred fighting it, though West’s subsequent declaration of bankruptcy made it doubtful he’d ever recover the money…

…Winning back his name was hardest of all. Removing every trace of the taint would be impossible. Stories persist on the Internet. Once, a date told him she had Googled him, and he had to explain.

Leiderman, one of his defense lawyers, thought it was not enough that the government dropped charges. He wanted the criminal justice system to recognize Gonzalez’s innocence affirmatively…

…In January 2009, nearly a year after Gonzalez’s arrest, Leiderman called him excitedly: The judge had sided with them. Gonzalez was soon holding a certified copy of the judge’s order declaring him factually innocent…

…Asked why West hadn’t been charged with filing a false police report, Ellison, the Ventura County prosecutor, gave this explanation: “We could not say with 100% certainty that Tracy West was lying.”

To Gonzalez’s attorneys, who have argued vehemently for West’s arrest, the state’s decision not to charge her criminally violates the most basic moral arithmetic…

…”No one wanted to believe a woman would make something like this up,” he said.

Gonzalez sued West for malicious prosecution, and her insurance carrier settled the case on confidential terms…

…Now and then, he found himself thinking of something he discovered on West’s computer. It was a link to a sexual-bondage website that West had recently visited, Del Marto said. When he asked about it, she replied that a friend had sent it as a joke, the detective said.

The site featured men and women in elaborate restraints, and a depiction of a double-loop slipknot with a little eyelet on one end. To Del Marto, it resembled the knotted cord a nurse had removed from West’s bruised neck on Feb. 1, 2008.

The detective tried to imagine West hating her son’s father enough to injure herself in such a methodical way. Tying the cord around her own neck, cutting off clumps of her hair, battering her own face, burning her own skin … and the other things. His mind strained at the effort…

…Asked about the events of that day during a deposition, West invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.

When she failed to show up for a hearing in the summer of 2009, Gonzalez was granted temporary custody of their son, but the case continued…

…”She continues to maintain that he’s guilty of this heinous crime, and he’s not,” the judge said. “The court finds if mom is allowed to maintain primary physical custody, she’s more likely to continue with this.” She appeared to be a good mother otherwise, he said, and it was with “a heavy heart” that he awarded custody to the father…

…After his release he developed the habit of meticulously documenting his whereabouts, eliminating time gaps that might leave him vulnerable.

If he’s in an airport or a 7-Eleven, he makes sure the surveillance cameras get a good look at his face. Anytime he can swipe his credit card and sign his name, even to buy a pack of gum, he does it. He fills his wallet with receipts and the world with a conspicuous trail.

He feels most vulnerable when he is asleep, when, for six or eight hours a night, no cameras are watching, no witnesses are marking his presence…

Read more on the Los Angeles Times.

Read Part One.