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Shania Twain says she has compassion for accused in stalking case

Canadian country singer Shania Twain makes an appearance at the Indigo bookstore at the Manulife Centre in Toronto on May 9, 2011.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Shania Twain testified Friday that she has compassion for a man accused of stalking her but remains concerned that he will continue to pursue her.

Giovanni (John) Palumbo is charged with three counts of failure to comply with a court order and criminal harassment by watching and besetting.

During Twain's cross-examination, defence lawyer Gary Barnes argued that Palumbo — who allegedly sent Twain a series of letters, made unwanted visits to her family cottage and even attended her grandmother's funeral before being arrested at the Juno Awards this year — simply didn't realize that Twain wasn't interested.

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"A lot of this is a misunderstanding between two people," Barnes said. "They got the wrong impressions of each other."

But Twain didn't see it that way, even if she did try to empathize with Palumbo.

"No, I would not agree with that," replied Twain, appearing via video link from an undisclosed location in Europe.

"I'm torn emotionally because I have compassion for anybody who's reaching out in need — fans often do that.... I feel very sad ... and awkward having to go through these very personal matters with Mr. Palumbo because it's such an invasion of his privacy."

Still, Twain said, nothing she heard at the trial made her feel differently about Palumbo.

"I still have the fear and anxiety of being contacted in the future by Mr. Palumbo. And I do want it to stop. And as far as I know, this is the only way to go about that."

For the second day in a row, the process seemed to become too much for Palumbo.

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Twain was recounting the contents of numerous letters allegedly sent to her by Palumbo when the former doctor — clad in a rumpled black suit and navy slip-on sneakers — leapt to his feet and addressed the court loudly.

"But I didn't know you received any of them — you understand?" yelled Palumbo, alluding to why he persisted in corresponding with Twain even though she hadn't reciprocated his interest.

"It is very emotional for everybody," Palumbo said, addressing the judge.

"Please understand I have emotions, very strong emotions."

Amid his outburst, he muttered that the letters were intended to be "light-hearted." But Twain had disagreed with that assessment in her testimony.

"It was scary and haunting," she said of one correspondence.

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"It's a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster reading these mails," she added later. "It's very exhausting and unusual."

On Thursday, Palumbo had a similar outburst declaring: "Eilleen, you can trust me, I'm going to plead guilty." Twain's real first name is Eilleen.

Palumbo did not change his plea.

Earlier Friday, the defence quizzed Twain on why the Timmins, Ont., native didn't get in touch with Palumbo to let him know his advances weren't welcome.

"I choose to respond to very special cases ... otherwise, I'd never write songs or make records or do anything else," Twain said.

"Most of my contact is with charities, sick children, crisis situations ... people coming back from war.... I would not consider Mr. Palumbo a special case where I would address it directly."

Palumbo himself was more animated during the second day of the trial. He shuffled around in his seat, turned to grin at a throng of reporters several times, and jumped up to confer with his lawyer repeatedly.

Twain, too, was feisty during her testimony. She disagreed with many of the statements made by the defence and confidently reasserted her feelings on the intent behind Palumbo's words. As the morning session was winding down, Barnes addressed Palumbo's feelings for the singer.

"He's in love, Ms. Twain. He keeps trying. Would you agree that you're an expert on love?"

"No," Twain responded quickly, with a laugh. "I do not claim to be an expert on love."

The trial was set to continue Friday after a midday break.

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