7:00pm PT by Gary Baum
Ronni Chasen Lawsuit: Key Hearing Set In Filmmaker's Public Records Battle With Police
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant has ordered a hearing date in the ongoing legal fight between the Beverly Hills Police Department and filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach over access to the case file of murdered film publicist Ronni Chasen. The move comes five months after the L.A. County Coroner released Chasen's long-sealed autopsy at Katzenbach's behest and against the BHPD's wishes as part of a related lawsuit.
Katzenbach is working on 6:38: The Death of Ronni Chasen, a documentary about the prominent Hollywood figure's highly publicized November 2010 death. She was fatally shot in her Mercedes-Benz while driving home from the premiere of Burlesque. Suspect Harold Martin Smith, a 43-year-old ex-convict who lived in a Hollywood flophouse, committed suicide when confronted by officers.
Some observers of the case believe unanswered questions remain, and Katzenbach hopes that the BHPD's Chasen file will yield answers. Although police departments typically have wide latitude to maintain discretion regarding their closed investigations, he believes the BHPD has waived its right in the Chasen saga since one of its own staffers, senior forensics specialist Clark Fogg, published the book, Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murder, which Katzenbach argues drew on Fogg's inside knowledge of the investigation for one of its chapters. The department disagrees.
"While I am glad to know that this will be brought to a resolution before the end of the year, I am more than a little irked that the people of California have to resort to such an effort to obtain transparency of their local government," says Katzenbach, who is acting as his own counsel, adding: "I am particularly irked that the other side has remained steadfast in their desire to take this matter to trial when it is clear that they have violated their own internal policy."
BHPD attorney T. Peter Pierce did not return a request for comment.