Judge In Blake Case: Play Nice

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A judge Monday rejected a prosecution bid to have an investigator for actor Robert Blake thrown off his murder case and warned lawyers on both sides that he would not tolerate "mudslinging" after they slammed each other in court papers.

Blake's lawyer, Harland Braun, had accused police and prosecutors in a legal motion of charging the 68-year-old "Baretta" star with murder out of political gain and trying to deny him a fair trial in a "win-at-all-costs" strategy.

Prosecutors, in their own court papers, blasted Braun's motion as — "a hodgepodge of incendiary remarks, baseless accusations and personal insults that jumbles a host of issues and grossly misstates facts."

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash did not take sides in the bickering but seemed to direct his admonishing remarks more at Braun, saying the veteran, high-profile attorney could "do better" in his next motion.

"I'm not going to countenance mudslinging," Nash said. "You can do it outside but I'm not going to put up with it in my court. Mr. Braun, I found your motion inflammatory to a certain extent and not really helpful."

The exchange of paperwork dealt with a prosecution attempt to have Arna Zlotnik, the attorney for Blake's bodyguard and co-defendant, Earle Caldwell, tossed off the case along with a private investigator for the actor.

Prosecutors claim that both had a conflict: Zlotnik because Blake was paying her and investigator William Jordan because he could be called as a witness for the prosecution.

Nash refused to remove Jordan from the case, saying Blake had a right to hire an investigator even if the man could end up as a witness, but postponed a ruling on Zlotnik until the next hearing, scheduled for June 18.

The judge said he wanted Caldwell to first discuss the matter with an independent attorney who would be appointed by the court to determine if there was a conflict.

Blake, a onetime child star who starred as gruff detective Tony Baretta on the popular 1970s cop drama, is charged with murder in the May 4, 2001 shooting death of his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. He is being held without bail.

Caldwell, who is free on $1 million bail posted by Blake, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Prosecutors say Blake, bound to a woman he hated by marriage and a baby and fed up because he couldn't find a hit man to do the job, shot her to death as she sat in the passenger seat of his car outside Vitello's restaurant in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City.

Blake, who maintains his innocence, told police that he left Bakley sitting in the car while he went back to Vitello's to retrieve a gun he had left behind, and returned to find her dead, having been shot by an unknown assailant.