Phil Spector Sentenced, May Spend Life in Prison

By: Linda Deutsch AP Email
By: Linda Deutsch AP Email

LOS ANGELES (AP) - There was no soundtrack for the final scene
of pop maestro Phil Spector's criminal case.

Spector, 69, said nothing as he was sentenced Friday to 19 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Lana Clarkson, a one-time B-movie actress who was shot through the mouth in Spector's castle-like mansion six years ago.

Now Spector, the difficult genius whose "Wall of Sound" production technique turned pop songs into mini-symphonies in the 1960s, may spend the rest of his life in prison.

Spector, who would not be eligible for parole until he is 88, showed no emotion before being led away to prison.

Spector's lawyers spent two trials and millions of dollars arguing that Clarkson killed herself while battling depression. They vowed to appeal.

His family seemed as divided as the jurors who had deadlocked at
his first trial.

"This is a sad day for everybody involved," said Spector's 28-year-old wife, Rachelle. "The Clarkson family has lost a daughter and a sister. I've lost my husband, my best friend. I feel that a grave injustice has been done and from this day forward I'm going to dedicate myself to proving my husband's innocence."

"I'm torn about this," said Spector's son, Louis. "I'm losing my father who is going to spend his life in jail. At the same time, justice is served."

Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler sentenced Spector to the mandatory 15 years to life in prison, added a four-year enhancement for personal use of a gun and imposed more than $26,000 in restitution fees.

Spector's attorney, Doron Weinberg, asked that his client quickly be transferred from Los Angeles County jail to a state prison.

Weinberg said Spector had surgery this week for precancerous polyps on his vocal cords and correctional authorities are prepared to deal with his multiple medical issues.

"The faster he can get to his ultimate destination, he can get organized and start to live the rest of his life," Weinberg said. "He will be a very high-profile inmate and there's a question of how others will treat him."

In his heyday in the early and mid-1960s, Spector produced dozens of hits, including The Ronette's "Be My Baby," The Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" and The Righteous Brothers' classic, "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin."' Spector also worked on the Beatles album "Let It Be" and John Lennon's album, "Imagine."

His "Wall of Sound" used orchestrations and sometimes dozens of microphones to producer a dense, echoing sound that influenced everyone from The Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen.

But Spector also had a troubled reputation. In the 1970s, he got probation for possessing and brandishing a gun. Singer Leonard Cohen once said the producer held a gun to his chest.

Clarkson, 40, didn't know Spector's musical legacy when she met him only hours before she died at his Alhambra "castle" in February 2003. The star of Roger Corman's 1985 cult film classic "Barbarian Queen" was working as a hostess at the House of Blues nightclub on the Sunset Strip, where she had to be told by a manager that Spector was an important man.

She was later found at his mansion in suburban Alhambra, slumped
in a chair in a foyer. A gun had been fired in her mouth.

Spector's chauffeur, the key witness, said he heard a gunshot, then saw Spector emerge holding a gun and heard him say: "I think I killed somebody."

Spector had two trials with essentially the same evidence. The first ended in a jury deadlock and the second with his conviction for second-degree murder.

Much of the case hinged on the testimony of five women from Spector's past who said he threatened them with guns when they tried to leave his presence.

The forewoman of the jury that convicted Spector was at the sentencing Friday.

"It's still sort of heavy on the heart," Irma Soto-Lopez said. "I feel sorry for both families."

Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson had no sympathy for Spector.

"He's getting exactly what he deserved," Jackson said.


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