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Posted on Thu, Sep. 30, 2004

Accused stalker of actress Catherine Zeta-Jones pleads not guilty

Associated Press

The woman accused of stalking actress Catherine Zeta-Jones pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the criminal charges two weeks after a judge ruled she was competent to stand trial.

Dawnette Knight, 33, entered the plea at an arraignment in Superior Court on one count of stalking and 24 counts of making criminal threats. If convicted, she could face up to 19 years in prison.

The charges stem from nearly two dozen letters she allegedly wrote, some sent to actor Michael Douglas, the husband of Zeta-Jones. One letter reads: "We are going to slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs."

Knight allegedly apologized in another letter, claiming she had been in love with Douglas.

Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta declined to comment on the case.

Defense attorney Richard Herman said in a press conference that Knight is not a threat and faces criminal charges only because the case involves celebrities.

"I'm afraid that we've gone much too far in something that's just greatly overblown," Herman told reporters after the hearing Wednesday. "It is my hope that justice will be done, and I'm confident that justice will be done ..."

Superior Court Judge David Mintz scheduled the trial to begin on Nov. 10.

Knight, who is in jail in lieu of $1 million bail, was arrested June 3 at her Beverly Hills home.

The prosecution has claimed that Knight sent 19 letters threatening harm to Zeta-Jones and also made violent phone calls to the actress while she was filming "Ocean's Twelve" in Amsterdam.

Some letters said the actress would be chopped into pieces "like Sharon Tate was" during the 1969 Manson Family murders and made reference to the violent deaths of President Kennedy and Nicole Brown Simpson.

Sheriff's detectives testified at previous hearings that they found "My Stroke of Luck," a book written by Douglas' father, actor Kirk Douglas, in Knight's apartment. It was signed by Zeta-Jones and Douglas.

Knight's case was interrupted July 30 after it was discovered she suffered an overdose on barbiturates.

Another judge in the case, Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg, on Sept. 15 ruled Knight was mentally fit to stand trial based on a psychiatric evaluation.

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