Sunday, March 16, 2003
Los Angeles Actor Robert Blake, walking out of jail and straight into a pack of reporters, said he would spend his first days of freedom in nearly a year resting as he prepares to face trial on charges of murdering his wife.
"I'm gonna go sleep for three or four days," Blake said moments after walking out of jail Friday afternoon. His first words, to his lawyer, were: "Give me a cigarette."
The 69-year-old actor, who had been jailed since his arrest last April, was released a day after Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash allowed him to post $1.5 million bail.
After speaking briefly to reporters, he climbed into a car with his attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., and left for an undisclosed location. Several hours later he and the lawyer were seen entering a home in a gated community in Malibu.
"This is not my day. It's not Father's Day. This is God's day. He's never let me down in my life," Blake said. "I never thought I'd make it 11 months in a cement box, but I'm here. I've had an exquisite life. I've had incredible highs. I've had terrible lows. But I'm still here and I wouldn't trade my life for anybody's in the world."
Under terms of his release, Blake must surrender his passport, submit to electronic monitoring, pick one residence to live in and stay there.
Until Thursday he had been jailed without bail because of a so-called special circumstance charge of lying in wait, an allegation that usually precludes bail.
But Nash granted bail after a preliminary hearing at which he also found enough evidence to order Blake to trial.
The judge had said at first he believed he was "boxed in" by the lying-in-wait allegation, but he changed his mind after Mesereau argued that evidence to support that charge was weak and that granting bail would be "the humane thing" to do.
The once robust looking actor appears to have aged significantly and lost a good deal of weight while incarcerated.
His wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, 44, was slain May 4, 2001, shortly after the couple left Vitello's restaurant, Blake's longtime hangout in his Studio City neighborhood. The shooter fired a bullet into Bakley's brain and another into her upper body as she sat in their car.
Blake claims he found his wife shot after he went back to the restaurant to retrieve a handgun he carried for protection and had accidentally left behind.
Prosecutors say Blake, unable to hire a hit man to kill his wife, shot her himself.
He is charged with murder, solicitation of murder, conspiracy and lying in wait. His handyman-bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, is charged with conspiracy.
Caldwell has been free on $1 million bail posted by Blake since shortly after both were arrested. The two must return to court for a March 27 arraignment. No trial date was set.
Blake, who has said he began having casual sex with Bakley after meeting her in a jazz club, married the woman in late 2000 after tests determined he was the father of her baby.
Ultimately, authorities allege, Blake wanted to keep his daughter and get rid of his wife. A retired police detective and two former stuntmen testified at the preliminary hearing that he solicited her killing.
Best known for his Emmy-winning role as a detective in the 1970s series "Baretta," Blake began his career as a child actor in the "Our Gang" short films. He went on to appear in a number of movies, including "In Cold Blood" and "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here."