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FLEISS CRITICIZES PROSECUTORS AS COURT OVERTURNS CONVICTION

After a state appeals court threw out her conviction for running a high-priced prostitution ring, "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss defiantly criticized prosecutors for ever targeting her.

"Arresting Heidi Fleiss is not going to change prostitutes, it's not going to change men who want prostitutes, it's not going to do anything to better women's lives or roles for women," she said. "It's really hypocritical."California's 2nd District Court of Appeals Wednesday overturned Fleiss' pandering conviction and ordered a new trial, ruling jurors engaged in vote-swapping misconduct to avoid a deadlock.

"The jurors involved in this misconduct committed a transgression worse than those with which Fleiss was charged," Justice Reuben A. Ortega wrote for the three-judge panel. "Those jurors turned this serious proceeding into a farce."

Fleiss, 30, was convicted in 1994 of three counts of pandering and sentenced to three years in prison. The appellate court ruling does not affect Fleiss' federal conviction last year on money laundering charges. She faces seven years or more in prison when sentenced in September.

"It feels so good to just enjoy this moment," Fleiss told reporters. "I've never heard good news like this before, it's been three years of misery, absolute misery."

Fleiss was arrested on pandering charges in a 1993 police sting operation. She was videotaped supplying prostitutes to undercover agents posing as Japanese businessmen and boasting how she ran the most exclusive call-girl ring in town.

Defense attorneys immediately appealed the state conviction, telling Superior Court Judge Judith Champagne that jurors engaged in misconduct while deliberating. Champagne agreed there had been misconduct but ruled that it was insufficient to require a new trial.

During a hearing last year, several jurors said they swapped guilty verdicts on pandering charges for innocent verdicts on drug charges, mistakenly thinking Fleiss would serve no time for pandering.

"The jurors started horse trading and they were dealing with someone's life," said Fleiss' attorney, Anthony Brooklier.

Fleiss has been free on bond pending her appeal.

Deputy Attorney General David Glassman, who argued against the reversal, said he was disappointed with the court's ruling.

"We felt the court had remedies short of reversing the case, but they declined to do that."

District attorney Gil Garcetti said he hasn't decided yet whether to retry the case.

"I think I have more important things to zero in on," he said. "It's not a case that has tremendous import to the community as a whole."