Hingis' Stalker in Court

Friday, March 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(MIAMI) - Tennis star Martina Hingis told a stalking suspect to leave her alone, a prosecutor charged Friday. But the defendant's attorney said his client was legally pursuing a love interest.

That's what a jury heard during opening statements in the stalking and trespass trial of Dubravko Rajcevic. If convicted, the 46-year old Croatian-born Australian citizen faces up to year in jail on each of four counts.

``She asked him to stop. She asked him to leave her alone. She asked him to stay away from her, and he didn't,'' assistant state attorney Ergio Fernandez said as the case opened. ``Martina became the object of his long and wide journey of his obsession.''

Defense attorney Frank Abrams responded, ``I will be defending a man's right to love a woman and to pursue the object of his affection as a legitimate and non-malicious purpose in this world.''

Prosecutors charge that Rajcevic has harassed Hingis, 20, at tennis tournaments, with love letters faxed to her hotel and left at the gate of her Swiss home since January 1999.

The defendant laughed and shook his head as Fernandez described how security officers kicked Rajcevic out of a German tournament after warnings from Hingis' manager.

Abrams wrote the names of 11 tennis tournaments on the blackboard to illustrate the events Rajcevic missed on the women's tennis tournaments while he was allegedly pursuing Hingis.

At one point in Abrams' opening, after he repeatedly violated rules restricting the content of his statements, Florida Circuit Judge Kevin Emas sent the jury out of the courtroom.

``This will not be played to the camera. This is not off-Broadway,'' the judge told both sides, threatening to remove a court TV camera and other media from the courtroom if lawyers didn't control themselves.

Abrams acknowledged that Rajcevic sent a long series of letters expressing his love and encouragement. But after Rajcevic was arrested at the 1999 Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Abrams said, ``All my client wanted was for Ms. Hingis to personally tell him her feelings.''

Rajcevic was arrested on the trespass charge on March 31 at last year's Ericsson, was released on bond and returned to the tournament the next day where he was arrested again.

Circuit Judge Gerald Klein, who was called as the first witness, said he ordered Rajcevic at a bond hearing on the first arrest to have no contact with Hingis.