Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Grand Theft Trial Opens for Ex-Lawyer Angela Wallace, Co-Defendant Timothy Mack
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A life insurance check meant for the son of a dead Los Angeles police officer was instead deposited into a law firm’s account by a woman who won the man’s trust, then spent his money, a Los Angeles deputy district attorney told jurors yesterday.
In a brief, 10-minute opening statement in the grand theft, perjury and forgery trial of ex-lawyer Angela Wallace, prosecutor Ronald Goudy said Wallace met Howard Byrdsong in the course of making funeral arrangements for his mother, retired LAPD officer Shiree Arrant. Goudy said Wallace agreed to help Byrdsong and his brother and set up an account for them. But he said evidence would show Wallace used a forged power of attorney to spend almost all of the $385,000 insurance settlement.
“Every check written on that account was written by defendant Wallace,” Goudy said.
But defense attorney Milton Grimes described Wallace as a woman who did her best to honor Arrant’s deathbed request by looking after her two sons and spending the money on their behalf to pay off back mortgage payments, to house them in an apartment when the house burned, to reconstruct the house, and to pay off debts and funeral expenses.
Arrant told her son to look after his brother, and that Wallace would look after both of them, Grimes said.
“Miss Wallace became more than just a legal representative,” Grimes said.
He told jurors that his client took care of the two young men until another woman saw a way to make money from the situation, turned Byrdsong and his brother against Wallace, took them into her own home and forbade Wallace from speaking to them.
There was never an intent to deprive Howard Byrdsong or his brother, Jontrae Byrdsong, of their money, Grimes said.
Opening statements came nearly two weeks after voir dire began in the case, which is expected to last up to 15 days. Retired Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Samuel Mayerson, sitting on assignment, permitted a number of jurors to opt out because of the financial hardship of being away from work for such a lengthy trial.
Mayerson has said trial must conclude by Dec. 19.
Also on trial is Timothy Mack, whom Goudy said tried to pass himself off as a representative of City National Bank, where the account with Howard Byrdsong’s money was held. Goudy said Mack presented a document offering a “settlement” of the young man’s claim against Wallace to Regina Martin, the woman who had taken in the Byrdsongs.
Goudy also said evidence would show both Mack and Wallace lied in order to get driver’s licenses in other names.
Mack’s attorney, Anthony Garcia, said evidence would show Mack had nothing to do with any scheme to take the Byrdsongs’ money and that someone else, not Mack, forged a signature on the second driver’s license.
Testimony began late on the afternoon with a witness from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Wallace has a long history of State Bar discipline. She resigned with charges pending last year and was not an attorney when she had her dealings with Arrant and then the Byrdsongs. But prosecutors say she was employed by the All-American Law Firm and worked with attorney Phyllis Brown.
Last month, Wallace was arrested in court on new charges of false personation and subornation of perjury. She is alleged to have gotten a witness to testify falsely under a fake name at a State Bar Court hearing.
That charge will not be presented to the jurors in the trial that began yesterday.
Jurors also were not told that both Byrdsongs were slain by a gunman dressed as a postal worker who came to Regina Martin’s home, although Grimes did tell jurors that Howard Byrdsong died in Martin’s home.
Testimony is expected to continue today.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company