Woman testifies against defendants in Denny case Claims she was also attacked

August 24, 1993|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- A Latina woman testified that her car was pelted with rocks and bottles and her purse was stolen after a black man near the flash point of the Los Angeles riots pointed and said: "Get her! She's not a sister!"

Alicia Maldonado Doby was the first prosecution witness yesterday in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial of Damian Monroe Williams, 20, and Henry Keith Watson, 28.

The two men are charged in attacks on motorists, including trucker Reginald Denny, at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues on April 29, 1992.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Watson are charged with a single felony count of assault with a deadly weapon on Ms. Maldonado, who told a nine-woman, three-man jury that she was driving west on Florence Avenue about 6 p.m., heading for a job interview at a medical facility in nearby Inglewood, when she was set upon by rioters.

"I saw some Hispanics on the left side of me -- some blacks on the right side, yelling at each other," the X-ray technician said.

The native New Yorker, who is of Puerto Rican descent, testified she first believed she had driven into a gang fight.

Then she said she noticed a light-skinned African-American man who seemed to be directing traffic.

"Traffic was being directed according to the color of your skin at that time," Ms. Maldonado said. "The persons who were allowed to pass were all black."

As she drove into the intersection, Ms. Maldonado said, the man pointed with both hands at her car.

"He said, 'Get her! She's not a sister!' He hit my windshield with something hard enough to break it," she said. "Then all my glass was shattered at that time. I almost hit a car trying to get through it."

Ms. Maldonado was not asked to identify either Mr. Watson or Mr. Williams in court.

But her description of the clothing worn by the man "directing traffic" -- dark shorts, a white T-shirt, and a black cap with a blue bandanna around his neck -- is similar to what prosecutors contend Mr. Williams was wearing that day.

Although she remembered seeing a hand reach through the broken window on the passenger side of her car, Ms. Maldonado testified she did not know her purse was missing until she had left the scene.

She later added that she in particular had a "personal problem" with how she was treated because she is married to a black man.

"I never expected that -- being a Hispanic -- from blacks," Ms. Maldonado said.

When she tried to report the incident to Inglewood police, they referred her to authorities near her home, but first gave her a cardboard sign to post on her --board: "I'm Puerto Rican -- not white," she said.

"They were doing that to actually get me home alive," Ms. Maldonado said.

Violence erupted in South Central Los Angeles after the acquittals of four white Los Angeles Police Department officers in the March 3, 1991, Rodney King beating. The violence extended over three days and led to 54 deaths.

Much of the early violence at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues -- including the beating of Mr. Denny -- was broadcast live on television.

Videotapes taken from the air and ground are key evidence against the defendants, who have denied the charges.

Defense attorneys contend the two men are unjustly being blamed for the violence.

In cross-examination yesterday, a contentious Ms. Maldonado conceded some inconsistencies between her testimony and statements she gave police. But she accused defense attorneys of trying to confuse her.

"To confuse me -- you are going to have a hard time -- I'll tell you right now," the witness told Wilma Shanks, co-counsel for Mr. Williams. She later insisted: "I am very clear about that day."

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