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'Cheaters' host, crew acquitted

They were charged with restraining woman

11:42 PM CST on Thursday, November 9, 2006

By DEBRA DENNIS / The Dallas Morning News

FORT WORTH The host and three other employees of the reality television show Cheaters on Thursday were acquitted of charges that they unlawfully restrained an Arlington woman whom they suspected of infidelity.

Prosecutors said Maria Gutierrez was confronted by the crew of the Dallas-based show on May 4, 2005, at her workplace, Bally's Total Fitness club in Arlington.

Cheaters uses video surveillance to tape unfaithful lovers and spouses. The show's crew had gone to Bally's to question Ms. Gutierrez about a videotape of her with a former Fort Worth police captain.

Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Sean Colston said during closing statements Thursday that the case was about the rule of law, not cheating spouses.

"These defendants think they're above the law and that they can do whatever they want in the name of entertainment and the First Amendment," he said.

Bobby Goldstein, executive producer of the show, hugged his colleagues after the six-member jury delivered its verdict after an hour of deliberation at Tarrant County Criminal Court.

"I've been very proud of Cheaters and the way the show has handled itself throughout the year," he said. "In this case, there was no assault, and it's regrettable that Tarrant County prosecutors brought these charges."

Joey Greco

Joey Greco of Dallas, the show's host, testified Thursday that he did not harm Ms. Gutierrez and that she was not restrained at the fitness center.

Cheaters crew members said they did not know Ms. Gutierrez had received a protective order when they confronted her at Bally's.

Ms. Gutierrez had secured a protective order against her estranged husband, Rafael Gutierrez Jr., after he assaulted her, Mr. Colston said. Mr. Gutierrez is serving three years' probation for violating that order.

Mr. Greco was charged with unlawful restraint and hindering apprehension. He was charged along with the show's director and two security guards.

Judge Mike Mitchell dismissed some counts against the director and security guards, saying there was not enough evidence.

The show's director, Hunter Carson, 30, of Dallas was charged with unlawful restraint and hindering apprehension. An assault charge against him was dismissed.

Bodyguards Walter Earl Woods, 37, and Thomas Gibbons, 20, both of Dallas, were charged with unlawful restraint.

Mr. Woods faced an additional charge of assault with bodily injury.

As Class A misdemeanors, each charge carried the possibility of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Mr. Greco said that the trial had caused a lot of stress on him and his family.

"We're thrilled," he said of the verdict. "We never felt we did anything."

E-mail debdennis@dallasnews.com

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