A retired Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has pleaded no contest to an assault charge for shooting at police responding to his West L.A. townhouse.
James A. Bascue entered the plea Friday in a Santa Ana courtroom. Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals sentenced Bascue, 75, to five years of formal probation and 500 hours of community service, according to court records.
Bascue's attorney, Richard Hirsch, said his client had consumed both alcohol and Ambien on the night of the shooting. Since his arrest in the early morning hours of June 11, Bascue has undergone treatment for alcoholism, including private counseling, regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and a two-day outpatient program, Hirsch said.
"He's grateful that the court and the prosecutor allowed him to move ahead and prove he can be a productive member of society," Hirsch said of Bascue.
Both the courts and district attorney's office of Los Angeles County formally recused themselves from the case.
Before retiring in 2007, Bascue was a longtime L.A. County judge who also served as the court's presiding judge from 2001 to 2002. Before his appointment to the bench in 1990, Bascue had worked as an L.A. County gang prosecutor.
But Bascue's storied career took a dramatic turn last year when he called police about 11:45 p.m. on June 10 to his South Barrington Avenue townhouse and officers found him inside, holding two guns. He loaded the guns' magazines and pointed a gun at his head, police said.
Officers pleaded with him to drop the weapons.
Police said that Bascue fired two shots, one inside his house and another toward an officer at the window, prompting a standoff with a SWAT team that ended with his arrest.
In August, the state attorney general's office filed a felony assault charge against the former jurist.
In accepting a deal that kept Bascue out of prison, Goethals said the judge merited credit for his career as a prosecutor and court officer, City News Service reported. Goethals said he took into account letters from Bascue's former colleagues, and said the news coverage of the case provided "shame and embarrassment," City News Service reported.
Goethals addressed Bascue as "mister" and said the sentence did not amount to preferential treatment.
"It's important to me and this community there not be a perception we have a two-tiered system of justice,'' Goethals told the court.
Bascue's attorney agreed that the "very unusual" case did not demonstrate preferential treatment. Hirsch said his client had also written a letter to the police officer whom he shot at, apologizing for what occurred. And Hirsch noted that his client called police initially and there's evidence that he didn't even know police were outside his home.
"He didn’t intend to either harm a police officer or do anything to put a police officer in jeopardy," Hirsch said.
As Goethals handed down the sentence, Bascue was tearful, Hirsch added. Bascue was also ordered not to drive, and he's expected to return to court in July for a progress report.
Said Hirsch: "I think he's prepared to move ahead."
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