LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles fetish club "house slave" who had been banned from attending "swinger parties" at the facility was sentenced today to 56 years to life in prison for murdering the club owner and setting a fire that damaged the building.
David Edward Albert, 55, of Simi Valley, was convicted in July of first-degree murder, arson and cruelty to an animal for the July 27, 2010, deaths of Passive Arts Studio owner John Lavine and his 5-year-old gray wolf dog, Koda.
In denying a defense motion for a new trial, Judge Rand S. Rubin said Albert committed the murder because Lavine had barred him from participating in "acts that were very important to him."
Deputy District Attorney Marc Chomel said during the trial that Albert was banished from the club's invitation-only swinger parties "because he was creeping people out."
Lavine, 62, was shot in the back of the head and the back and strangled, then set on fire in a blaze that destroyed the front of the building near Los Angeles International Airport.
Before the sentence was imposed, the victim's son, Dean Lavine, spoke of having "mixed emotions" on a day when he also felt a degree of compassion for the defendant.
"I don't want to have hate," Lavine told the court, adding that he hadn't seen any sign of remorse from Albert.
"This is a person that did something incredibly violent," he said.
Elana Lavine, the victim's daughter, told Rubin she used to speak to her father every morning, and "a very big
Albert declined to make a statement.
Defense attorney Winston Kevin McKesson had argued at trial that the death resulted from a botched suicide attempt and urged jurors to convict Albert of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.
Albert's lawyer told jurors that his client had gone to the business armed with a gun and a plan to kill himself in front of Lavine after being fired a few weeks earlier from his janitorial job.
The suicide plan went awry when Lavine "belittled him," "hurt him emotionally" and the two struggled, McKesson told the jury.
The prosecutor countered that Albert had a fetish about smelling women's behinds and was banned as a result from the "swinger parties" where couples swapped partners on the weekends.
"This isn't a case about role-playing," Chomel told jurors in June. "It was for keeps."
Lavine's body was so badly charred in the fire that the coroner's office had to identify him from X-rays showing surgical implants in his back.