Actor Heard faces new harassment charges

December 18, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A long-running domestic dispute between movie actor John Heard and "Homicide" actress Melissa Leo moved yesterday to a Baltimore courtroom, where prosecutors dropped a stalking charge against Heard but named him in new harassment charges.

Leo, 36, who plays a tough police detective in the NBC television series, alleges in court papers that Heard has been stalking their 9-year-old son, whom she was awarded custody of after a bitter 1994 court battle.

She and Heard had a three-year relationship in the 1980s, but they were never married.

Heard, noted for his role as Macaulay Culkin's father in the "Home Alone" movies, said as he left Baltimore District Court that he is still upset over the custody ruling that awarded Leo their son, John Matthew.

"My concern is that I stay in my son's life and be with him in some other place besides hotel rooms," Heard said.

Asked whether he had anything else to say, he replied, "Wish everybody 'Happy holidays' for me, especially the parents who won't be seeing their kids."

Heard is allowed to see the boy six days a month, said his attorneys, who maintained that Heard is concerned about whether his son is receiving proper care for a learning disorder and dental problems.

Leo claims in court papers that Heard, 50, has harassed her with phone calls, peeped through the windows of her Fells Point home and, at one point, parked outside her son's private school in Roland Park so that he could spy with binoculars.

Her live-in boyfriend, ski instructor John Russell, has filed harassment and assault charges against Heard, claiming that Heard shoved him Nov. 12 during a confrontation outside the school.

A trial is scheduled for March 19.

Leo and Russell, looking grim and tired, refused to talk to reporters after yesterday's hearing, with Leo saying, "It's a very serious matter, and there's a lot of litigation going on. It should be taken care of in court and not in the newspaper."

The most serious charge Heard faces is the second-degree assault charge filed by Russell.

If convicted, he could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

David B. Irwin, Heard's attorney, called it "good news" yesterday when prosecutors dropped a stalking charge that Leo had sworn out against Heard.

The charge was replaced with additional misdemeanor charges that carry lesser penalties.

"This case is about John Heard wanting to see his son," Irwin said on the courthouse steps. "He just wants to have access to his son and be a good father."

In 1994, a New York judge awarded custody to Leo after saying that Heard "lacks temperament in parenting skills."

Heard, who was once married to actress Margot Kidder, has appeared in more than a dozen movies, playing a yuppie toy executive in "Big" and a heroic zoo keeper in "Cat People," and starring as a homicidal artifact collector in "Deceived."

His bitterness over the custody dispute was documented in a 1992 Washington Post article in which he called a judge presiding over the case "a fascist" and asserted that Leo "lives in hell."

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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