Carroll O'Connor testifies about futile efforts to fight son's addiction
Jul. 17, 1997
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Carroll O'Connor told jurors in the slander suit against him that he found out his son was using marijuana at 16 and cocaine at 20, but wasn't able to stop his son's slide into addiction and suicide.
The actor's testimony, which was to continue Thursday, was interrupted at day's end when sheriff's deputies arrived to arrest the man who is suing him.
Harry Perzigian was jailed on a warrant charging him with a probation violation _ a drunk-driving arrest in June. His lawyer said he would post $50,000 bond for Perzigian and have him back in court Thursday.
Hugh O'Connor, 32, shot himself in March 1995 after a long battle with drugs and alcohol. Perzigian, 41, is suing the elder O'Connor for slander based on TV interviews in which the actor called him ``a sleazeball'' and ``a partner in murder'' for supplying cocaine to his son.
O'Connor, speaking in a husky voice, told jurors that he forbade his son from bringing marijuana into the house after discovering he was using it.
``I said, `I don't want to see it around here,''' O'Connor recalled. ``... One word from me and he did as he pleased.''
Under questioning by Perzigian's lawyer, Allan Sigel, O'Connor said he suggested his son get medical help after learning he was using cocaine.
He said his son told him: ``What for, pops? I don't have a problem.''
O'Connor said he could tell by his son's blank stare that he was high.
``I used to say, `Hey kid, you're giving me the high beams again,' and he would whip on the glasses.''
O'Connor, star of TV's ``All in the Family,'' said he took his son to Georgia to remove him from the Los Angeles drug scene and appear in his TV series ``In the Heat of the Night.'' But O'Connor said the problems continued because cocaine use was rampant on the set.
O'Connor said his son became close to Howard Rollins, one of the show's stars who eventually was written out of the series because of drug problems. Rollins died in 1996, reportedly from lymphoma.
O'Connor said he once asked Rollins how he got the drugs.
``Pops, you get 'em everywhere,'' he replied. ``Put your head out the window and yell `heroin' and guys will come up with them. Yell `coke' and guys come running.''
O'Connor said he confronted both Rollins and his son and asked them to give up drugs.
``They refused to give me guarantees of any kind,'' he said.
Sigel said outside court that he was trying to demonstrate that others besides Perzigian supplied drugs to the younger O'Connor, and that Perzigian was not responsible for Hugh O'Connor's death.
Perzigian, who served a brief prison sentence for furnishing the cocaine, has said he considered the younger O'Connor a friend.
Sigel also said that Perzigian probably would settle for an apology from O'Connor to end the suit.
O'Connor's lawyers said Perzigian has asked for $10 million and is clearly motivated by money.
``Why are we here?'' O'Connor attorney Lucy Inman said outside court. ``Why would you put a grieving father through this? He's in it for the money.''