Owner of oil change chain convicted

Published 12:22 am Monday, February 4, 2008

COVINGTON, La. (AP) — The co-owner of a chain of vehicle oil change outlets faces up to 15 years in prison after being convicted of attacking a woman two years ago after she snubbed his advances at a Mandeville bar.

Gary Copp, 53, of Madisonville, was found guilty late Friday of aggravated second-degree battery in the February 2006 attack that left Paula Rome, a 42-year-old single mother of two teenagers, with loss of short-term memory.

Copp is president of SpeeDee Oil Change. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27. Copp and his attorney declined comment.

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‘‘The next woman may not have been so fortunate, and she may have died. That’s what I fought for,’’ Rome said after the verdict was returned. ‘‘I am just trying to begin to live again. Nobody deserves this.’’

According to testimony, after Copp and Rome exchanged words, Copp slung the woman off her bar stool and then, while she was lying on the ground, stomped on her head several times with the heel of his cowboy boot.

The state attorney general’s office handled the case because the St. Tammany district attorney’s office recused itself for unspecified reasons.

Copp testified that Rome had wielded a lit cigarette at him and blown smoke in his face, prompting him to act in self-defense. Defense lawyers claimed Copp never kicked Rome, that he only pushed her, and that the fall — hitting a barroom table and then the floor — caused her injuries.