'Bling Ring' lawyer: LAPD investigator's conduct embarrassing
After the final defendant in the "Bling Ring" celebrity burglary investigation pleaded no contest Friday to felony possession of stolen goods, her attorney said the LAPD would have been embarrassed by the conduct of its lead investigator in the case had the matter gone to trial.
In a plea deal, Courtney Leigh Ames, 22, was sentenced to three years' probation and 60 days of community service. In exchange for the plea, officials said, prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary and receiving stolen property.
She admitted receiving a leather jacket that was stolen from Paris Hilton's home in 2009. She could have received three years in prison, but prosecutors struck a deal amid a cloud over the chief investigator.
In a July hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler said LAPD Officer Brett Goodkin's decision to serve as a technical advisor on Sofia Coppola's docudrama "The Bling Ring" while still assigned to the case had harmed the prosecution of the defendants.
Bob Schwartz, Ames' attorney, said the LAPD "should thank their lucky stars that the Courtney Ames case didn't go to trial."
"Had it gone to trial, there would have been brought out a great deal of testimony that would have been extremely embarrassing both to the detective and [the] LAPD," Schwartz said.
Schwartz noted that Goodkin had been paid to work on the movie and appears in it. He also questioned Goodkin's testimony to the grand jury and interactions with witnesses.
Earlier this year, Fidler told defense lawyers, "You should all write a thank-you letter to Goodkin, because his judgment is as poor as it gets. ...You can have a field day with his credibility during trial. ... It's a shame what he did. It's harmful to the people's case."
Two other alleged members of the ring, Diana Tamayo and Roy Lopez Jr., also reached plea agreements. Other members of the crime ring, authorities said, were Nicholas Prugo, who pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree residential burglary, and Rachel Lee, who pleaded no contest to one count of first-degree residential burglary.
The ring was largely made up of young women who attended a continuation high school in Agoura Hills and had a taste for the luxury goods and accessories worn by young celebrities, officials said. The group initially targeted wealthy homeowners in communities in western Los Angeles County, investigators said, and then turned their attention to big names, using websites to learn the location of stars' homes and their travel schedules.
Coppola's film stars "Harry Potter" actress Emma Watson as Bling Ring figure Alexis Neiers, who in 2010 pleaded no contest to second-degree residential burglary. Neiers also was on Coppola's payroll and is now on probation after serving 30 days of a 180-day sentence.
According to payroll records, Goodkin received $12,500 from Coppola and her production company. Goodkin's attorney, Ira Salzman, said his client's work on the movie is ethical and that he offered advice on police procedures.
The LAPD began an investigation into Goodkin after a Times report revealed he was being paid to consult on the film while the cases against the burglary suspects were still ongoing.
-- Richard Winton in L.A. County Superior Court
Photo: Courtney Leigh Ames, center, in court in 2010. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times