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Aunt: Ex-deputy in torture trial is peaceful

Last updated 1 year ago

SANTA ANA – An aunt of a former Los Angeles sheriff's deputy accused of torturing his wife and her boyfriend testified Wednesday that she knows him to be honest, trustworthy and peaceful.

"He's not a violent person," said Joan Lawson, an office administrator from Chester, Penn.

Lawson was among witnesses for the defense in the trial of Robert McClain, 38, of Irvine, who prosecutors say brutalized his then wife, from whom he is now divorced, and her boyfriend in an hours-long ordeal at an Irvine office.

She read about the case in 2008 and the allegations did not change her mind about her nephew's character, Lawson testified.

That is "not the Robert that I know," she said, "Absolutely not."

Prosecutors have painted a starkly different picture, accusing McClain of attacking his wife and boyfriend physically, sexually and emotionally in a jealous rage on Sept. 28, 2008, after McClain persuaded her to take him to meet the man.

At the time of the incident, McClain, 38, of Irvine had been married to his 31-year-old wife for 12 years. According to prosecutors, McClain became angry when he learned she was having an affair with a 23-year-old man who lived in an Irvine apartment complex where she worked in the leasing office.

The defense is now presenting its case in Superior Court Judge Gary Paer's courtroom. Jurors have heard and seen graphic evidence in McClain's continuing trial, including gruesome photographs of the crime scene and injuries to the bloodied boyfriend.

A juror fainted while viewing one such photograph and testimony was temporarily halted earlier this week. The trial resumed after about a 15-minute delay Monday afternoon, with Paer questioning the juror to make sure he was able to continue, could view more photographs and still be fair in the case.

"This is purely, what you would say, physiological," the juror told the judge. "It's not emotional distress over the photos."

The photo that brought on the fainting spell showed lacerations to the boyfriend's genitals, which prosecutors say were a result of McClain using a knife in the attack.

If convicted of multiple felony counts – including torture, aggravated mayhem, kidnap and sexual assault – McClain could be sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.

Closing arguments in the case are expected next week.

By VIK JOLLY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

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