An Ohio man who was convicted in 2000 of stalking Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow was acquitted today of continuing to stalk the star, who testified during his latest trial.
Dante Michael Soiu told jurors last week that his letters to Paltrow were “a matter of seeking forgiveness for what I’d done 17 years ago.”
It was “part of the AA program … making amends,” the 66-year-old man testified last week.
Under questioning Friday, Soiu said, “I felt bad about what happened before … it was bad language, it was inappropriate and not respectful.”
The latest case involved a felony count of stalking. Prosecutors alleged he did so between April 2014 and February 2015.
Soiu was convicted in 2000 of stalking Paltrow, but a judge determined that he was insane at the time of the crime and he was sent to a state mental hospital.
The first case against Soiu involved hundreds of letters, emails and packages he sent to the actress, beginning in March 1999, before he showed up at her parents’ Southern California home in May of that year.
After being asked to leave and later being interviewed by FBI agents in Ohio, Soiu returned to the parents’ home twice.
In 2002, a state appellate court panel upheld his conviction, noting that in one of the many letters he sent to the actress, Soiu wrote that he was “going to take God’s scalpel and cut the ‘sin’ out of Ms. Paltrow.”
In Soiu’s latest trial, Deputy District Attorney Wendy Segall called it “a case of a love-obsessional stalker that is never going away.”
“What they want you to believe is that Mr. Soiu is a lonely old guy who is writing letters trying to minister to people,” the prosecutor told jurors.
“He sent 566 communications and not one of them has been answered” over 16 years, Segall said. Though the FBI, Paltrow’s mother and bodyguard all asked him to stop, “Nothing has deterred this man. Nothing,” the prosecutor said.
“He wants to marry her to save her. That is creepy and scary and he has never let go of that belief,” Segall told jurors. “His communications are full of references to sin and death … and the intentions of spending eternity with her.”
“Reject me or my words and God will curse you to your face. Vengeance is the Lord’s,” Segall read from one of Soiu’s letters.
Soiu’s attorney, Lynda Westlund, countered that Soiu was not trying to threaten Paltrow, but only sent her letters expressing his Christian beliefs.
“Counsel has no business casting aspersions on someone else’s religious beliefs,” the defense lawyer told jurors. “This is a case of mistaken intentions.”
Soiu’s attorney argued that jurors needed to separate what happened before Soiu’s last conviction, behavior that she called “deplorable,” and his more recent actions.
She said it was “possible for somebody to rehabilitate and change in 16 years,” asking jurors to give her client “a little bit of credit.”
Westland told the panel that Soiu did not make a “credible threat” against Paltrow as defined by law and that the prosecution failed to make the legal case for stalking.
“We don’t believe that there was a credible threat’ that would cause Paltrow to ‘reasonably fear for her safety,’ Westlund said.
Testifying just over a week ago, the 43-year-old actress said she has “been dealing with this for 17 years” and feared for her safety and that of her two children.
Tearful at times, Paltrow read portions of more than 60 letters and emails sent by Soiu that she described as ranging from “religious to pornographic to threatening.”
The actress choked up when shown an email she wrote to her security team after she received a letter at her Brentwood home that she believed was from Soiu. She said her mail is generally screened by others, and does not arrive at her home.
“I was terrified,” she told the jury.
She told her security team that she wanted to learn the “bite” and “attack” commands for a guard dog. “I don’t want him to sleep locked up anymore,” she wrote, adding “I need a panic button.”
She said Soiu sent her women’s clothing that was intercepted by security personnel.