Stalking defendant says he wanted Paltrow to forgive him
A man charged with stalking Gwyneth Paltrow told jurors Thursday that he wanted the actress' forgiveness for bombarding her with lewd messages years ago, but a prosecutor urged the panel to see him as a calculated and crazy stalker intent on tormenting the Oscar winner.
Dante Soiu testified in his own defense as one of the final witnesses in a felony stalking case filed over numerous messages he sent Paltrow in 2014 and 2015 that included biblical messages but also his desire to marry her.
Soiu, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, described himself as a recovering porn addict who simply wanted Paltrow to write him back.
"I was very lonely," Soiu said. "I wanted to have a pen pal."
He also said he never intended to scare the actress or physical harm her.
"I have no desire to hurt her feelings," Soiu, 66, said. "I have no desire to harass her."
A prosecutor, however, urged jurors to disregard his statements and instead view Soiu as a stalker who would never stop harassing Paltrow.
"It's a compulsion and an obsession to insert himself into her life," Deputy District Attorney Wendy Segall said in closing arguments.
She told jurors that the case actually got Soiu what he wanted -- to spend time with Paltrow, who testified against him on Monday.
"He gets to spend hours in a room with the object of his desire," Segall said. "This is not a stupid man. This is actually a highly intelligent man."
Soiu's attorney, Lynda Westlund, contended the prosecution's case cherry-picked his correspondence and that Paltrow's testimony had been coached and the actress had not actually read the letters Soiu sent.
"She read it just like she was reading a script," Westlund said.
She said Soiu posed no credible threat, noting that an element of the 2000 case was that her client traveled to Los Angeles and went to the home of Paltrow's parents.
The actress testified Monday that she was scared of Soiu and broke down when a prosecutor asked if she was afraid for the safety of her children.
Segall noted the length of time Soiu had been fixated on Paltrow, and she told jurors it has taken its toll on the actress.
"He has continued to torment her for 16 years," she said.
Soiu testified Wednesday that he wrote to a variety of public figures, including President Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie and Vladimir Putin, but Paltrow was the only one he wanted to marry.
He previously tried to meet Paltrow in 1999 and 2000 after sending her the pornographic messages and sex toys.
Paltrow, 43, won an Oscar in 1999 for her role in "Shakespeare in Love." She has two children with estranged husband Chris Martin, frontman of the band Coldplay.
Soiu faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
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