Accused madam enters six pleas of not guilty Media circus mobs L.A. court building

August 10, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- Mobbed by paparazzi, masked by dark glasses and quaking in her spike-heeled pumps, alleged madam to the stars Heidi Fleiss pleaded not guilty to felony charges stemming from what police say was one of Los Angeles' most exclusive call girl rings.

In a brief hearing yesterday before Los Angeles Municipal Court Commissioner Abraham Khan, Ms. Fleiss stood quietly as her lawyer, Anthony Brooklier, entered not guilty pleas on her behalf to five counts of pandering and a single count of possession of cocaine for sale.

Behind her, in row after scribbling row, scores of journalists packed the courtroom gallery for their first live glimpse of Ms. Fleiss, offering themselves as an unintentional Exhibit A to the attorney's argument against an increase in her $100,000 bail.

"My client is a virtual prisoner in her house since the publicity started in this matter," Mr. Brooklier said, referring to the paparazzi who have kept a round-the-clock vigil for the past week outside Ms. Fleiss' home in Los Angeles' exclusive Benedict Canyon. Commissioner Khan agreed that Ms. Fleiss' bail should not be raised, and ordered her to appear back in court Sept. 10 for a preliminary hearing.

Afterward, Ms. Fleiss struggled back through the gantlet of camera lights, now mugging, now ducking behind Mr. Brooklier.

As she slipped down a stairwell and into her lawyer's car, the pack of reporters turned on two of Ms. Fleiss' friends, heading down the elevators and across the parking lot after actresses Victoria Sellers and Bonita Money, who said they had come to court to offer moral support.

Later, at her home, Ms. Fleiss said she had been terrified by the media crush, which courthouse employees said was one of the largest in recent memory. Outside the courthouse, TV vans were jammed for a full block; inside, camera crews clattered into elevators and down stairwells, microphones aloft.

"I was, like, almost trampled to death," said Ms. Fleiss, shaking her head as she and her lawyer watched a big-screen video playback of her court appearance. "There was a motorcycle parked outside, and the cameramen just knocked it over. Cameras were swooping in under my face. Someone was pulling my hair. I was panicked. I thought someone was going to pull my clothes off."

The crush was so violent, Mr. Brooklier said, that he was moved to renege on an earlier promise to make Ms. Fleiss available for a hallway news conference.

But journalists -- many of them equally stunned at the onslaught of media attention -- defended the newsworthiness of Ms. Fleiss' story.

"It's the silly season, you know, the summer months and nothing is happening," said Jerard Evans of the London-based Today News.

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