LOS ANGELES - Michael Douglas testified Wednesday he felt shocked, frightened and vulnerable after learning that his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, had received death threats, and she was so terrified that she had fainting spells and difficulty breathing.
The actor took the stand at the preliminary hearing in a stalking case against Dawnette Knight, 32.
"She just felt that she was a marked person," Douglas said of his wife. "She was having a difficult time maintaining emotional control."
Knight was arrested June 3 at her Beverly Hills apartment and charged with one felony count of stalking and 24 felony counts of making criminal threats. She was held on $1 million bail.
Knight, in handcuffs, sat quietly throughout the proceeding, which will determine whether there is enough evidence to order her to trial.
Douglas appeared under stress and cleared his throat frequently during his testimony. Zeta-Jones was expected to testify later in the day.
The actor testified that the first threat that he learned of was a telephone call made in March to a hotel his family owns in Bermuda. He said he did not mention the call to his wife, fearing it would "upset her tremendously."
After discussing the call with authorities, Douglas said, he learned that his father had already received threatening letters directed at Zeta-Jones.
"I've never received mail like this before," he said. "They're very graphic in nature."
Douglas said he eventually told his wife about the threats and the two discussed whether they knew anyone who could possibly be behind them. At the request of investigators, Zeta-Jones also looked at the letters to see if she recognized the handwriting.
Zeta-Jones then went to Amsterdam to film scenes for the upcoming movie "Ocean's 12," according to Douglas, who said he spoke with the producer to be sure extra security would be in place.
While there, the hotel where Zeta-Jones was staying received phone calls threatening her, he testified.
That awareness of where Zeta-Jones was, coupled with a letter that described the interior of a home where the couple once lived, showed that whoever was making the threats had access to a lot of information about them, Douglas said.
"The proximity made us terrified," he said. "There was a knowledge in these letters that was deeply unsettling."
Zeta-Jones eventually sought treatment from a doctor and began taking medication to calm herself, Douglas said.
After her arrest, Knight wrote a letter of apology to Zeta-Jones, describing herself as "a confused young woman infatuated with Michael Douglas."
The letter, released by her defense attorney, asked for the couple's forgiveness so Knight could return to college and finish studies in child psychology.
If tried and convicted, Knight could face a sentence ranging from probation to 19 years in prison.