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LA court drops Nora Aunor’s drug charges

Nora AunorBy Jose Katigbak
WASHINGTON It looked like a scene from a Filipino tearjerker.
But Nora Aunor was not acting when she cried tears of joy, hugged her lawyer and drew an audible sigh of relief after a court in California dismissed the two-year-old drug charges against her.

In a 10-minute hearing at the Superior Court of Los Angeles, Judge James Dabney essentially expunged all records of any drug charges filed against Aunor in 2005 for alleged possession of methamphetamine or shabu.

She was dismissed after being fined $220 and the legal cloud that hung over her head vanished as if by magic.
It was her final court appearance in a drama that began in March 2005 when the superstar, known to her fans as Ate Guy, was arrested at the Los Angeles airport after security agents found 7.7 grams of shabu in her handbag.

In April 2006, Aunor pleaded no contest to charges of drug possession and entered a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program under a deferred entry judgment that provided that if after 18 months she kept her nose clean her plea would be withdrawn, there would be no record of conviction and the case would be dismissed.

She can do whatever she wants, travel wherever she wants. Shes free to go and do as she sees fit, when she sees fit and how she sees fit. Shes clean,” said lawyer Sherwin Edelberg who was with Aunor in court in the absence of Claire Espina, a University of the Philippines graduate who handled the bulk of the case but could not be present on the final day because she was not feeling well.

Edelberg and Espina are partners in a prestigious Los Angeles law firm that bears their names.
After the judgment was read out Aunor cried and gave me a hug and said she was very lucky to have lawyers like Claire and me,” Edelberg told The Manila Mail.

She thanked me and Claire and said she never felt better in her life and that she was looking forward to the future.”
Edelberg said Aunor made a good decision to plead no contest to the charges after she was made a decent offer instead of taking the risk of a trial.

Aunor wore dark slacks and a sweater top and was accompanied in court by four friends.

She has made more than 170 films including several with deposed President Joseph Estrada who was recently found guilty of plunder and sentenced to life in prison.

Aunor has also recorded a number of albums and is a good friend of President Arroyo.
Ms. Aunor was accompanied in court by her aunt, Manay Belen Villamayor, her cousin, Maribel Aunor and another cousin and chaperon Sunshine. They waited more than three hours before her case was called.

Earlier, Espina said Nora was granted full credit for all the group sessions she attended in the Drug Court program and was not required to attend any more sessions during those 18 months.

Ms. Aunor also passed in excess of 40 drug tests while under Drug Court and is no longer required to undergo any drug testing. She was to return in October 2007 for the closure of the case unless defense makes a motion for early termination, an option Ms. Aunor did not take.

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