Jury acquits Ohio man of stalking Gwyneth Paltrow

LOS ANGELES -- A jury acquitted an Ohio man on Wednesday of stalking Gwyneth Paltrow after prosecutors said he sent her dozens of unsolicited letters and gifts in recent years.

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The case against Dante Soiu, 66, was the second in which he was accused of stalking the actress.

The Columbus native was committed to a mental institution in the early 2000s after he was accused of sending lewd messages and sex toys to the actress and found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury of six men and six women began deliberations on Tuesday in the latest case.

They heard from a variety of witnesses, including Paltrow, who described the fear she felt after learning Soiu was writing to her again.

One letter described Paltrow "bowing to death," a reference the actress found disturbing. In another, Soiu wrote: "I have a goal: to marry Gwyneth Paltrow and take care of her."

Soiu also testified at the trial, telling jurors he was a changed man who continued to write to Paltrow because he wanted her forgiveness for his earlier messages.

Jury foreman Ryan Austin said jurors found Paltrow and Soiu were credible witnesses, but the panel ultimately had doubts that Soiu intended to frighten the actress.

He said the jury thought Soiu's conduct was reprehensible, especially in light of the previous pornographic messages to the actress, but didn't amount to felony stalking.

None of Soiu's recent correspondence to Paltrow included lewd messages or sex toys.

Austin, a civil attorney, said it seemed reasonable that Paltrow would be afraid of Soiu, but his recent correspondence seemed to be love letters and proselytizing rather than a serious threat to the Oscar-winning actress.

Soiu's lawyer Lynda Westlund said during the trial her client was a Christian who was writing to Paltrow in an attempt to minister to her. The lawyer also noted Soiu hadn't recently travelled to try to meet Paltrow, as he did in 1999.

Westlund said Wednesday she was thrilled for Soiu, who would be released later in the day and return to Ohio. Westlund said she does not believe he poses a threat to Paltrow, but she will advise him not to write any more letters to public figures.

Soiu's testimony was crucial to showing that he had a calm demeanour and wasn't an angry man, she said.

Paltrow cried last week when a prosecutor asked her on the witness stand whether Soiu's writings made her fear for the safety of her children.

"I felt very upset by it. It defied logic, and I found it very, very upsetting," Paltrow said. "This was something I had been through a very long and traumatic experience with already."

Soiu said he was looking to make amends with Paltrow and had abandoned his desire to marry her since his arrest.

"I was very lonely," Soiu said. "I wanted to have a pen pal."

He also said he never intended to scare the actress or physically harm her.

The recent batch of letters also described a pair of earrings he sent her in 2009 as a Christmas gift, some second-hand clothes and a Weight Watchers cookbook. He has also sent her religious books and forwarded her letters that he sent to President Barack Obama and actress Angelina Jolie.

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.



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