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Man, guilty of hammer attack on attorney, is deemed sane

March 17, 2009 |  8:18 am

An Arcadia man who was tried for beating a Rockwell International Corp. attorney with a hammer at a doctor's office was deemed sane by a Pasadena criminal jury, paving the way for his conviction Monday on assault charges, prosecutors said.

Mulji Patel, 70, was found guilty Thursday of two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Jurors deliberated for about an hour Monday before finding that Patel had been sane during the Jan. 31, 2006, assault on attorney Irwin A. Nepomuceno.

Patel will be sentenced April 19 by Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz. He faces a possible maximum of 18 years in state prison.

Patel earned the dubious distinction of attacking two Rockwell lawyers over a time span of a decade and a half. Both had represented the company in the same case against his former employer, Rockwell International.

The more famous of the cases took place in 1991, when Judge Charles Gordon, an administrative law judge for the state Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, disarmed Patel as he held a gun to the head of Rockwell attorney Lynn P. Peterson.

Initially, there were no armed bailiffs in the courtroom. Gordon, who later was given a Carnegie Medal for heroism, lunged at Patel and they fell over the attorney's table to the floor. The gun fell out of Patel's hand, and Peterson grabbed it.

The weapon was later found to be unloaded, and Patel was arrested. He served three months of a yearlong county jail sentence for the incident.

But 15 years later, prosecutors say Patel struck again, literally, when he smuggled a hammer into a Pasadena doctor's office in 2006 and used it to strike attorney Nepomuceno in the head and body.

Nepomuceno was representing Rockwell in the same worker's compensation case that prompted the initial attack more than a decade ago, said Jane Robison, the district attorney's press secretary.

-- Andrew Blankstein