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Gionis case still not necessarily closed

April 18, 2001

Deepa Bharath

A criminal record is like a fingerprint. It's like a shadow you can't

shake off. It's like being bound by invisible shackles.

Dr. Thomas Gionis probably knew that. But he was reminded of that

unpleasant truth a couple weeks ago when the John Marshall Law Review --

part of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago -- canceled his

appointment as the incoming editor-in-chief.

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Gionis, 47, is currently a second-year student there and was elected

to the post in March.

But nine years ago, the then-Irvine orthopedic surgeon was in a

different place -- he was convicted and sentenced to serve five years in

prison for hiring two thugs to attack his estranged wife, Aissa Wayne,

daughter of the late actor and local legend John Wayne.

Aissa Wayne and her boyfriend, Roger Luby, were assaulted in Luby's

Newport Beach home in October 1988. According to reports, Wayne was

thrown face down on a garage floor while attackers -- said to be hired by

Gionis -- pistol-whipped Luby and severed his Achilles tendon.

Gionis' trial was long and grueling, probably painful for all

concerned. It was definitely high-profile. Gionis hired top defense

attorneys such as F. Lee Bailey, John Barnett and even Bruce Cutler, a

flamboyant attorney who represented New York mob boss John Gotti.

In 1990, Gionis' first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury

deadlocked 9-3. Two years later, his second trial ended in a conviction

and Gionis was sentenced to five years in prison. But he remained free on

a $2-million bail.

Then, again in 1994, a 4th District Court of Appeal threw out the

conviction citing improper testimony by an attorney and misconduct by the

prosecutor. But the following year, the California Supreme Court

reinstated the conviction, a decision that led to his arrest in May 1995.

The case might have been closed in the courts, but not in the life of

the once-convicted Gionis.

When contacted by phone at his Chicago home, Gionis expressed his

displeasure with past newspaper coverage, denied comment and hung up.

John Marshall Law School officials said the decision to oust Gionis as

incoming editor-in-chief was made entirely by the board of the Law

Review, which consists of students.

"They may have discussed it with faculty members," said John Corkery,

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. "But we always try to let the board

make its own decisions."

The position of editor-in-chief at the Law Review is a "very

prestigious" one, he said.

Gionis continues to be a student and a member of the Law Review and is

free to run for other editorial positions as they open up, Corkery said.

It takes a lot even to be a member of the Law Review, said Rory Smith,

associate dean for institutional advancement.

"From our perspective," he said, "our strongest students become

members of the Law Review."

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