He's facing murder charges, his hair's gone white, his lawyer bails on him, and now authorities won't even let him take to the tube in his own defense. What's a poor Robert Blake to do?
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department confirmed Tuesday that it has barred ABC News' Diane Sawyer from conducting a jailhouse interview with the former Baretta star. Blake was trying to get Sawyer to come by his cell for a chat on Friday, ostensibly so he could make a case to the viewing public that he didn't murder wife Bonny Lee Bakley outside a Studio City, California, restaurant in May 2001.
"It was never approved. We normally don't approve those kinds of interviews to begin with, because it serves no purpose except for curiosity factor," says deputy Richard Westin, a department spokesman.
Westin adds that granting such a request would've caused quite a ruckus at county jail, too.
"It's extremely disruptive to the jail activities, and it's a security problem. They were asking for three different cameras and 25 to 30 people outside the jail," explains Westin. He also notes that "the interview process has to have the approval of the criminal defense attorney, and that was opposed, so under any circumstances we wouldn't have done it."
ABC had no comment on the sheriff's ruling.
The decision by Sheriff Lee Baca provided a double dose of bad news for Blake. The actor's high-octane celebrity attorney, Harland Braun, announced Monday that he was resigning from the case, because the 69-year-old Blake insisted on doing the interview.
Braun said the notion of Blake going on television before his trial "defied common sense." The lawyer said he feared Blake's words could be taken out of context and ultimately hurt his defense.
Blake initially agreed to the jailhouse Q&A with Sawyer and ABC's PrimeTime Live in a deal brokered by his civil lawyer, Barry Felsen.
In order for Braun to withdraw as Blake's counsel, the presiding judge must first approve the change in defense attorneys. Any resulting switch would likely delay the actor's preliminary hearing set for December 11, though Braun said in a letter to the court that bringing in a new legal team "should not be too difficult."
And even though Blake will not be doing the TV interview, Braun tells E! News Live that he has no intention of returning to the case. Of course, he still needs approval from Superior Court Judge Lloyd Nash to grant his request. No word on when that will happen.
Predictably, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, hints it might oppose Braun's removal from the case, because it wants "a speedy preliminary hearing."
"Harland W. Braun's withdrawal as criminal counsel for Blake complicates this process. This office will go to court to ensure the preliminary hearing scheduled for December 11 remains on track," the office said in a statement. "Endless [delays] in this and other cases of high public interest do not serve either the people or the administration of justice."
The D.A. also asked the judge to make a ruling on Braun's defection "at the earliest convenient date" to keep the show rolling expeditiously.
Blake, meanwhile, is said to be hunting for a new defender.