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Actor Takes the Stand in Stalking Case

Catherine Zeta-Jones testified Wednesday she has a continuing fear because of threats that she would be killed like President John F. Kennedy, Manson Family victim Sharon Tate or O.J. Simpson's ex-wife.

The written and telephoned threats "affected me and ... will affect me for the rest of my life," the 35-year-old actress from Wales testified.

"I felt like a ticking time bomb," Zeta-Jones said at a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom to determine if Dawnette R. Knight should face trial on 25 counts, including stalking and criminal threats.

Called to the stand after her husband, actor Michael Douglas, finished his testimony, Zeta-Jones read aloud portions of letters that contained death threats purportedly sent by others.

One letter read, in part: "You know, if someone just kills her, Michael will not get hurt ... something such as O.J, Nicole Simpson ... We will get her very, very soon. Michael will be happy," she read. The actress -- who won an Oscar for her role in "Chicago" -- said that letter left her "fearful."

"I don't think that anyone would want a death threat in a sentence that contained (the words) Nicole Simpson," she said.

Zeta-Jones also read excerpts from another letter warning that she could be "cut to pieces like Sharon Tate" or killed with a "quick blow to the head," and yet another that suggested she might be blown away so that her head and brains resembled Kennedy's.

She said she was stunned by "something as satanic and horrific as making an analogy" to what happened to Tate, who was murdered by Manson family members.

"I can hardly put into words how that makes me feel," said the actress, wh wore a black form-fitting dress.

One letter sent to her in-laws, Kirk and Anne Douglas, included the reference, "See you at the funeral," and a smiley face, according to Zeta- Jones.

Other letters warned that the plan to kill her was 90 percent complete and that "the bitch" would be killed in a way that she wouldn't be recognized, the actress said.

"I can't even imagine how a sane human being would have these images locked in their brain," Zeta-Jones said.

Another letter referred to a "homegoing celebration for Mrs. Catherine Zeta-Jones" and included her photograph and the word "goodbye," she said.

"The fact that it is my so-called `obituary' in the mind of the person who's been terrorizing me ... an obituary is what happens after you are dead," she said, noting that she was distressed by the number of people close to her to which the correspondent referred.

Another letter read, "You need to let Catherine know if she hurts Michael, I will hire people to kill her ... if she loves life, to treat Mike right." Yet another threatened, "She will be dead before she's able to blink an eye!"

The actress said her security was "heightened considerably" after she learned about the threats. She and her husband also decided that their children would stay with him in Spain, instead of going on location with her when she filmed the upcoming "Ocean's Twelve" in Europe.

"I feared for my safety from the moment I was alerted to the fact I (was) receiving death threats," said Zeta-Jones, who at one point asked for a glass of water.

When Zeta-Jones was told that death threats had been phoned to the International Amstel hotel in Amsterdam -- where she was staying -- she said she "had been waiting for this to happen," but had hoped it wouldn't.

She said she started to "shake and sweat" and "felt that I was about to faint."

She said she was "very fearful" because she would also have to be on the streets of Rome during the movie filming, and the environment "could only be controlled to a certain degree." When informed that a suspect had been arrested, "I wanted to know whether I knew her," Zeta-Jones testified. "... I cried with happiness."

She said she was "chilled, relieved that a defendant is in custody, shocked at the violent, horrific, Satanic desire that someone would want to do that to me ... a total stranger." Zeta-Jones said she read the more violent letters after Knight's arrest.

"I needed to read the letters, to be able to know the intensity of what was going on," she said.

The actress -- who at one point blinked her eyes and struggled to maintain her composure -- said she had never before received a death threat in a 16- year career. She called the threats "personal terrorism that changed my life."

"These death threats have not just affected me. This has affected my 87- year-old father-in-law, my children, my nanny, my staff. This has affected my whole family," she said, asking for a cup of water. "I still have this resounding fear of these threats."

Earlier, Douglas testified that he was "here because of death threats upon my wife."

Douglas, himself an Oscar-winner, said he learned about the threats in March 2004 after being told about a call from a woman with a Southern-type accent to a Bermuda hotel where he has an ownership interest.

"How did you feel?" Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta asked. "I was shocked, scared and stunned," replied the 59-year-old actor, who was dressed in a gray shirt, gray suit and gray tie.

Douglas said he initially didn't tell his wife because he thought "it would upset her tremendously," but relented after a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective wanted her to look at some of the letters.

"There seemed to be an immediacy and they were becoming more serious -- the threats in the letters," the actor said.

Douglas said he reviewed all the letters, which he described as "very graphic in nature."

Douglas said he felt even more vulnerable when he learned that a letter was sent to a family friend who was formerly a neighbor. He said he was concerned that the letters' author had "an awareness of our social life, as well as geographically where we (had) lived."

Douglas said he was "deeply concerned" for his father, Kirk, who with his wife, Anne, had contacted the Sheriff's Department about letters they were receiving.

"He's 87 years old and he was trying to protect Catherine, my wife, and myself. I was concerned about the stress ... on him."

Douglas said his wife became "hysterical" after death threats came into the hotel where she was staying in Amsterdam.

"She just felt that she was a marked person, (she) couldn't understand how they knew where she was," he said, noting that she was having difficulty maintaining emotional control while trying to make a movie.

Zeta-Jones was progressively showing physical signs, including loss of breath, fainting spells and excessive sweating, said Douglas.

Douglas said his wife phoned him on her way to the airport for a flight to Spain and was "hysterical and concerned."

"She was fainting. She could not get any air, showed all the signs of having a nervous breakdown. She said, `I want to see a doctor' and was very emotional," Douglas testified.

He said he whisked her from the airport in Spain to the office of an English-speaking doctor, who gave her something to calm her. When asked if he recognized a photo of Knight on a Florida driver's license, Douglas said he believes he saw the woman once at his charity golf tournament in Las Vegas.

"Do you recognize her now?" the prosecutor asked.

"I think so," Douglas responded after looking at the 32-year-old woman, who had her right hand to her face throughout much of his testimony.

The actor said he believed she was the woman who had approached him "behaving slightly strange." He said he learned later that she had tried to slip him a note and that she had been removed from the tournament.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Richard P. Herman suggested that the information contained in the letters was all available on the Internet. Douglas responded that he didn't know.

Zeta-Jones said later that she didn't think information pertaining to her personal friends and addresses where she had lived would be on the Internet.

Knight, arrested June 3, remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

Herman told reporters Monday that his client -- an aspiring child psychologist -- wrote Zeta-Jones and her father-in-law a letter of apology in care of Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta.

"My client absolutely has asked the forgiveness of the Douglas family, which they haven't given her," he said. Otherwise, he said, "she would be off at a residential facility, and this would all (be) behind us."

The defense attorney said outside court earlier this week that his client had a "girlish crush on Michael Douglas" and sent him a note telling him she would show him "a good time." However, he said he was "not convinced my client wrote all the letters" cited in the case against Knight.

Ronald Calvin told reporters earlier this week that his fiancee is a "God- fearing woman" and is "extremely terrified by what's happening to her."

Knight "has every intention of pursuing her career as a child psychologist and loving wife to myself and, hopefully, the mother of my children ... All of this will be pillow talk for us one day," Calvin said.

Outside court this morning, he said: "She's sorry. How many times can the woman say she screwed up and it'll never happen again?"

He said "this shouldn't have been filed. This case should not be in court. This is not a criminal matter."

The hearing, before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg, resumes tomorrow with testimony from a sheriff's detective who investigated the case.


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