US trial ends after ‘star-struck’ lawyer’s Hanks gaffe

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Tom Hanks AFP FILE PHOTO

LOS ANGELES – A trial at which Tom Hanks was a juror collapsed after a “star-struck” prosecutor spoke to the Oscar-winning actor, breaching jury tampering rules, officials said Thursday.

“Forrest Gump” star Hanks was on the panel hearing a domestic violence case in Los Angeles when the female prosecutor approached him outside the courtroom to praise the fact that he was doing his jury duty.

She was not assigned to the case, but court rules impose a strict ban on lawyers talking to jurors at any time, to guard against the possibility of interfering with the jury.

“She made contact with Mr. Hanks in the stairwell of the building. She came up to him and thanked him, and (said) how impressed everyone is that such a celebrity would still be here serving jury duty,” Andrew Flier, the defense lawyer in the case, told TMZ.

“So she, in essence, was being maybe a little star-struck and nice, but it’s an absolute 100 percent no-no and should never have happened,” he told the celebrity news website.

The defendant could have faced up to a year in jail, but after learning about the breach of rules prosecutors rapidly struck a plea deal with the defense, under which a $150 fine was agreed for a lesser charge.

A spokesman for the LA City Attorney’s Office, Frank Mateljan, told AFP that City Attorney Mike Feuer was reviewing the case. It was not known if the prosecutor involved would face disciplinary action.

“The case settled yesterday. As a matter of professional course our attorney did inform the court that during one of the lunch breaks another attorney…had a brief encounter with Mr. Hanks,” he said.

“The defendant ended up entering a ‘No contest’ plea to a lesser charge, a disturbing the peace charge,” he added.

Asked about possible disciplinary action, he said: “The city attorney is in the process of being apprised of what took place, and he will review and take the appropriate action.”

A spokeswoman for Hanks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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