Vicious Assault Conviction Upheld

California appeals court says son of gay man’s ex-lover led exceptionally brutal attack

Upholding a conviction for “personal infliction of great bodily injury” in what trial Judge Robert J. McIntyre characterized as “one of the most vicious assaults this court has seen where the victim actually lived,” the California Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Peter Joseph Lozolla, Jr., on charges of attempted robbery and assault of his father’s ex-lover, Jeffrey Davis.

The unanimous September 14 opinion sustained a six-year prison sentence for the younger Lozolla.

According to the opinion for the appeals court by Justice Thomas E. Hollenhorst, Davis and his lover, Peter Lozolla, Sr., lived together for about two years beginning in the spring of 2000, with Lozolla’s son, Peter Jr., known as PJ, living with them for about a month. Davis testified at trial that he got along with PJ but never made any sexual advances on him.

By contrast, PJ contended that they did not get along and that he moved out after Davis made advances that left him feeling uncomfortable.

“Lozolla, Sr., who had a past history of alcohol abuse, began drinking again in early 2002,” Hollenhorst wrote. “On May 5, 2002, Davis called the police after Lozolla, Sr., assaulted Davis and pushed him to the pavement after coming home intoxicated. On a later occasion, Lozolla, Sr., became argumentative and asked Davis why Davis did not like [PJ] and why Davis did not like [PJ] to come over. Sometime in May, Davis decided that Lozolla, Sr., should move out, and he did. Davis considered their relationship to be over.”

Although Peter, Sr., had moved out, PJ continued to visit Davis’ house, warning him, according to testimony from Davis, that he lived with individuals who “if they were upset with people or whatever, they would go over to them and beat them up or whack them and take their stuff.”

Davis testified about a visit one May afternoon in 2002 during which PJ asked about his father’s whereabouts. Very early the following morning, according to the court opinion, his dog’s loud barking alerted Davis to the possibility of intruders and he checked to make certain his doors were locked, at which point, “someone put a fist through the glass and opened the back door.” As Davis retreated, “Two masked intruders followed him. The taller intruder grabbed his should and struck him in the head about seven blows with a hard object.”

It turned out that the hard object was a hatchet, and Davis sustained severe wounds in the attack.

The struggle lasted for quite some time, during which Davis’ wallet was taken, but he was able to pull off the taller assailant’s mask and discover that it was PJ. He subsequently concluded that the other assailant was the father of PJ’s girlfriend, who Davis testified hit him on the head with a heavy vase, rendering him nearly unconscious. After the assailants left, Davis called 911 and went to a neighbor’s house, bleeding profusely, to wait for the police.

The court opinion describes Davis’s testimony about his injuries as including “a ‘big cut’ over his left eye,” seven or eight other indented cuts on his forehead that “went ‘down about anywhere from a quarter of an inch to almost half an inch to the bone’… defensive cuts to his fingers, and teeth gouges in between two fingers.” Davis lost the tip of one finger. When he arrived at a hospital, Davis had trouble speaking due to injuries to his jaw, his face was swollen, his left eye had closed, and his vision was blurred.

A police technician recovered traces of Davis’ blood throughout his house and in a trail leading to the neighbor’s, a bloody hatchet, a ski mask, and a flashlight with the name of PJ’s girlfriend’s father etched in it.

PJ and his girlfriend’s father, Rick Allbeck, claimed they had not been at Davis’ home in those early morning hours, but were instead partying with alcohol and drugs at Allbeck’s house, as PJ’s girlfriend also testified. They claimed that PJ suffered chest pains the following morning and had to be rushed to the hospital with a “heart attack.” The jury believed Davis, perhaps surmising that the victim gave nearly as good as he got, and convicted PJ on several counts.

PJ argued on appeal that the evidence did not support his conviction on inflicting serious bodily injury, because the testimony was muddled about who struck which blows, with some of the clearest testimony having Allbeck bashing Davis on the head with the vase.

“We cannot say as a matter of law that the multiple lacerations and contusions Davis suffered, in addition to the two wounds that required stapling, did not constitute significant or substantial injury,” Hollenhorst wrote for the court. “Thus, even if we accept, for purposes of argument, defendant’s position that the second assailant inflicted the two most severe wounds, the other wounds and injuries, standing alone, would be sufficient to support the jury’s verdict that defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury on Davis.”