by Charlie Amter
Jul 30, 2004, 8:25 PM PT
Michael Douglas' number one fan isn't off the hook, but she may be off her rocker.
Catherine Zeta-Jones' accused stalker, who is reportedly obsessed with Douglas, tried to commit suicide Wednesday night while in jail, her attorney said in court Friday. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg was initially skeptical, but she ultimately bought Richard Herman's assertions that his client, Dawnette Knight, may not be competent enough to continue with legal proceedings.
A frustrated Schnegg suspended the preliminary hearing to determine if Knight will face criminal charges for alleged death treats against Zeta-Jones and ordered a psychological evaluation for Knight Friday, but warned, "these [criminal] proceedings do not go away."
All parties in the prelim are due back before Schnegg on Aug. 16. In the meantime, the sordid affair is expected to move next week to the Mental Health Courthouse in Los Angeles to determine if Knight is mentally fit.
Herman has done a 180 regarding Knight in the last 48 hours. Thursday, he said that his client was just "trying to get a good night's sleep" when she took two sleeping pills Wednesday night. As a result of her taking the barbiturates, Knight missed a full day in court.
The lawyer now says that Knight had tried to commit suicide because the Oscar-winning A-listers have been unrelenting in their legal attack since Knight's arrest in June.
"This case has turned into Hollywood against Dawnette Knight and it's not a fair fight," he said. Herman was particularly upset that the media did not empathize with Knight's letters of apology, which asked for leniency and forgiveness. "Instead of forgiveness we have seen a campaign of vilification in the media which is both mean-spirited and vicious," he said.
Herman also had some choice words for Zeta-Jones. "What's actually happened is that Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven Dawnette Knight to attempt suicide, and the real blood is on her hands."
Zeta-Jones did not immediately comment Friday on Herman's allegations. She and Douglas have kept quiet outside of the courtroom this week.
But Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta quickly responded to Herman's comments, calling them "inappropriate." Archuleta also said she was "shocked and outraged that the victim in this case, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is being portrayed in this manner."
Archuleta seemed more concerned with the hearing inside the courtroom than with statements made to reporters outside. "We might be getting dissuaded from the issue at hand," she said.
Indeed, the issue at hand has been overshadowed this past week by sensational leaks to the press and heated remarks inside and outside the courtroom.
Both Zeta-Jones and Douglas testified Wednesday against Knight, who claims to be an aspiring child psychologist.
Zeta-Jones said she "feared for my safety from the moment I was alerted to the fact I [was] receiving death threats." The Chicago star said she even received threats while on location in Amsterdam, and that she feared she was going to "have a heart attack or a stroke."
Zeta-Jones has purportedly received numerous phone calls and letters from Knight, dating back to January 2003.
Knight and her attorney have repeatedly asserted that the entire case has been blown out of proportion by the D.A., Douglas and Zeta-Jones. "She's very, very sorry that all this happened," Herman said of his client Wednesday. "She's represented to me her remorse on many occasions, including yesterday, and her desire not to cause anyone any more distress."
If a criminal trial is ordered, the 32-year-old could face up to 25 charges in September. She remains in custody of Los Angeles authorities.