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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In Brief

Man acquitted of murder after jury didn't believe witnesses

RANCHO CUCAMONGA (AP) -- Jurors didn't believe key witnesses and acquitted a man of murder in the death of an Upland church deacon.

Scott Frederic Harrison, 36, was charged with the 1992 murder of Phillip Perry, a 44-year-old deacon at St. Joseph's Catholic Church who was found shot to death in April 1992 in the back seat of his car in Tijuana, Mexico.

Jurors deliberated for a week before announcing the not guilty verdict on Monday. They said afterward that there was not enough evidence to convict even though they suspected Harrison played some role in the plot to kidnap, murder and dispose of Perry.

"There wasn't enough proof he actually pulled the trigger," juror Warren Giles said.

Two key prosecution witnesses -- Karl DiTommaso and Elizabeth Minor -- testified that Harrison was the shooter. DiTommaso said he sent Harrison and Minor to confront Perry because the deacon was having an affair with his wife.

DiTommaso and Minor were convicted in Perry's death in 2002.

"The witnesses weren't believable," Giles said.

Jailhouse deputy pleads not guilty to assault on inmate

RIVERSIDE (AP) -- A jailhouse deputy and a former officer pleaded not guilty to assaulting an inmate.

Corrections Deputy Michael Vernal, 33, and former sheriff's Deputy Antonio Gomez, 24, were charged with assaulting prisoner Daniel Leonard on March 2 inside the Robert Presley Detention Center.

Vernal allegedly slammed Leonard's head into a glass wall and a metal rail, while Gomez allegedly twisted his wrists behind his back.

Vernal and Gomez entered not guilty pleas Monday before Superior Court Judge Robert J. McIntyre. Vernal, who has been with the Sheriff's Department for four years, was also charged with destroying or concealing evidence.

The defendants remained free on $10,000 bail each. Vernal is on paid administrative leave. Gomez, who was a probationary employee, was terminated.

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