Ron Jeremy’s serial rape case was suspended in Los Angeles on Thursday after the jailed porn star appeared “incoherent” and unable to recognize his own lawyer, a judge ruled.
“I was just up in the cell where he was being kept, and I tried to get his attention unsuccessfully,” Jeremy’s defense lawyer, Stuart Goldfarb, told the court ahead of what was supposed to be a key hearing in the disturbing case involving 21 alleged victims. “He was unable to determine who I was and wouldn’t accommodate both myself and the bailiff to fit into the wheelchair to come down here. I don’t think he should be forced to come down here under these circumstances.”
After the bailiff also told the court Jeremy was “incoherent” and “not obeying commands,” Judge George Lomeli suspend the felony case and referred Jeremy to a mental health courthouse for an April 1 hearing. The judge set a follow-up date in his criminal courtroom for April 19. “Hopefully” by that date, “evaluations done by a psychiatrist on each side regarding the issues of competency” will clarify the situation, Lomeli said.
Jeremy, whose legal name is Ronald Jeremy Hyatt, was indicted last August on 34 counts of sexual assault involving the 21 complaining witnesses. The charges, dating as far back as 1996, involve alleged victims ranging in age from 15 to 51 and a dozen counts of forcible assault. He had pleaded not guilty.
According to court documents, Jeremy allegedly used his role as a cuddly elder statesman in the porn industry to disarm women and entice them into secluded areas. Many of the alleged assaults were said to have taken place at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, a West Hollywood dining establishment where Jeremy was a regular who enjoyed VIP access to employee areas.
The Thursday hearing was supposed to center on Jeremy’s request to have his case broken up into 21 separate trials. “Allowing Mr. Hyatt’s jury to hear about dozens of allegations of alleged misconduct will prevent his jurors from judging him fairly on each charged count and from scrupulously applying the burden of proof,” his defense motion calling for the separate trials reads.
Prosecutors oppose the motion, saying the charged offenses involve the same class of crimes and are “connected by a common plan.” That means they would be cross-admissible in separate trials and involve overlapping witnesses, which would waste judicial resources. They argue eight of the 21 Janes Does allegedly were attacked at the Rainbow Bar and Grill “using very similar methods.”
“More important to the people than the time of the jurors or court is the risk of re-traumatization inherent in having sexual assault victims testify repeatedly,” Assistant District Attorney Marlene Martinez argues in her office’s opposition filing obtained by Rolling Stone.
“In all 21 cases, the defendant preyed on victims that were vulnerable and unable to fight back. Whether that was by isolating the women in a bathroom, in a bedroom, at his friend’s house, in a parking lot or by perpetrating a surprise attack upon them, the defendant never gave the women an opportunity to fight back as he sexually assaulted them,” the reply says. “The only way to prevent a substantial waste of court time, juror time and victim and witness time is to have a joint trial.”
The judge declined to hear further arguments or issue a ruling Thursday pending Jeremy’s mental health evaluation.