LOS ANGELES (AP) — Letters addressed to Gwyneth Paltrow came for years, often with unsolicited items ranging from pornography and sex toys to religious books, earrings and clothes.
The last package arrived in January 2015 and is now part of a stalking case against Dante Soiu, who the actress had previously faced in a court proceeding that resulted in him spending years in a mental institution for lewd missives in 1999 and 2000.
On Monday, Paltrow faced Soiu in a case filed over 66 letters and packages sent to the actress in recent years with notes about his desire to marry her, religious writings and her death.
With furrowed brow and at times fighting back tears, Paltrow described the impact of the letters, which began arriving shortly after she won her best actress Academy Award in 1999 and resumed after a hiatus in 2009.
“I felt very upset by it. It defied logic, and I found it very, very upsetting,” Paltrow said, noting some letters came after she had two children.
“This was something I had been through a very long and traumatic experience with already,” she added, wiping her eyes.
Soiu has pleaded not guilty to felony stalking, and his attorney contends his writings were non-threatening and focused primarily on scripture and his desire to minister to the actress. His attorney also noted Soiu hadn’t recently traveled to try to meet Paltrow, as he did in 1999.
Paltrow read excerpts of notes sent by Soiu in measured tones during her two-and-a-half hours of testimony and broke down when a prosecutor asked if she was afraid of him and feared for her children’s safety.
“Yes,” the actress tearfully responded.
Her fear is a key element of the case against Soiu. Testimony was expected to resume Tuesday.
Paltrow’s head of security Terry Abbott testified Monday that he always informed his client when a letter from Soiu was received, but he stopped providing her details after one debriefing “caused her too much distress.”
Paltrow, 43, testified that several packages contained pornography, sex toys and statements that he wanted to cleanse her of sin.
“This is a case that has gone on for Ms. Paltrow for 17 years,” Deputy District Attorney Wendy Segall said during opening statements. “Her sense of security has been shattered by this man.”
Soiu was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2000 in a previous trial involving pornographic messages he sent to Paltrow. He was sent to a mental institution for several years then re-arrested last year after sending the actress new correspondence.
The recent batch of letters described Soiu’s intention to marry the actress as well as 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 he has sent to President Barack Obama and actress Angelina Jolie.
One letter described Paltrow “bowing to death,” a reference the actress said she found disturbing.
In another, Soiu is accused of writing, “I have a goal: to marry Gwyneth Paltrow and take care of her.”
Soiu, who is from suburban Columbus, Ohio, shook his head during portions of Segall’s opening statement and Paltrow’s testimony.
She took the witness stand a day after appearing at Super Bowl 50, cheering on Coldplay and her friend, Beyonce Knowles, during their halftime performance.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP
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