L.A. jury acquits man accused of stalking Gwyneth Paltrow
LOS ANGELES An Ohio man convicted 15 years ago of stalking Oscar-winning screen star Gwyneth Paltrow was found not guilty of that charge on Wednesday in a more recent case brought against him, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.Dante Michael Soiu, 67, was acquitted of felony stalking and a lesser charge of attempted stalking by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury after a trial capped by the testimony of Paltrow herself last week. The 43-year-old actress tearfully told jurors she feared for her safety and that of her family after receiving dozens of letters from the onetime pizza deliveryman, and she read some of them in court, according to media accounts of the trial.But Soiu testified on his own behalf that he meant no harm to Paltrow and that his letters were "a matter of seeking forgiveness" for the trouble he previously had caused her.Soiu was convicted in a December 2000 jury trial of stalking Paltrow after sending her sexually graphic letters and packages and showing up twice outside her parents' home.
But the judge in that case subsequently declared Soiu to be legally insane and ordered him confined at the time to a psychiatric facility until he had been judged to have recovered.The previous case unfolded in the wake of Paltrow's Academy Award-winning performance in the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love."
Soiu's lawyer in the latest case, Lynda Westlund, said after the not-guilty verdict, "I do believe that this jury did the right thing in this case."She said Soiu would likely be released from jail later on Wednesday evening.
"He just needed the right medication. He is completely lucid," she said of her client, whom she also described as being "a little different.""He's unique. He's special. But ... he's very cogent," she said. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler)