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Final 'Bling Ring' defendant pleads no contest

December 14, 2012 | 10:25 am

Courtney Leigh Ames, center, in court in 2010. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

With a key LAPD investigator under fire for working on a movie about the so-called Bling Ring that targeted celebrity homes for robbery, the final defendant in the case pleaded no contest Friday to a single felony charge of possessing stolen goods.

Courtney Leigh Ames, 22, received a sentence of 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 the case. 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.

"You should all write a thank-you letter to Goodkin, because his judgment is as poor as it gets," Fidler said at that time, addressing defense attorneys in the case. "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., reached plea agreements recently but have yet to resolve restitution issues with robbery victims Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

According to authorities, members of the Bling Ring broke into several stars' Hollywood Hills homes and made off with more than $3 million in art, cash, clothes and jewelry.

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.

Others authorities said were members of the crime ring are 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.

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.

[For the Record, 12:08 p.m., Dec. 14: A previous version of this post stated that Courtney Leigh Ames was ordered to serve 60 hours of community service. It was 60 days.]

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Photo: Courtney Leigh Ames, center, in court in 2010. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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