Former Laguna council candidate pleads not guilty to firearms charges; son released in threats case

A former Laguna Beach City Council candidate has pleaded not guilty to firearms charges resulting from a search of his home after authorities connected his son to an online post that city officials considered threatening.

Robert Mason Ross, 75, pleaded not guilty Jan. 6 to four felony counts related to being a felon in illegal possession of firearms.

He is currently in custody, in lieu of $250,000 bail, according to Orange County Superior Court and jail records. Information about his prior conviction was not immediately available.

Authorities arrested Robert Ross, a frequent council critic and a candidate in 2012, and his son Michael James Ross, 33, early Jan. 5 after police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT Team executed a search warrant at their Laguna Beach home in the 21500 block of Treetop Lane.

Investigators found six rifles, a semi-automatic handgun and more than 100 boxes of ammunition, said Laguna Beach police Sgt. Tim Kleiser.

Laguna Beach detectives sought a search warrant on the property after identifying Michael Ross as a suspect in their investigation into a suspicious Craigslist post titled “Going to Laguna Beach city council with My Gillie suit.”

Police arrested Michael Ross on suspicion of criminal threats and threats to public officials.

The unemployed Laguna Beach resident was released Jan. 9 without posting bail because he was “not arraigned in time,” according to jail records.

The Orange County district attorney’s office said it is continuing to investigate and will determine whether to file charges.

The Craigslist post showed five photos of a man dressed in camouflage with an automatic rifle hiding in the brush.

Detectives immediately launched an investigation after Laguna Beach City Hall employees alerted police Jan. 4 about the post, Kleiser said.

“I am warning the city council that I am going to show up with my gillie suit, to remove these tyrants from office, in 2017,” the post stated, according to police. “Call the police and the city, council and tell them I am coming to end this corruption, from the Laguna Beach City Council, once and for all. Hahahahahaha, you are going down now.”

The Orange County district attorney’s office assisted with obtaining restraining orders against Robert Ross and Michael Ross. Both men are prohibited from contacting or being in the vicinity of all five City Council members and the city manager, Kleiser said.

Councilman Kelly Boyd said City Manager John Pietig notified him of the threat last week.

“I was concerned for my safety, my wife’s safety, all other council members and John [Pietig],” Boyd said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Boyd said he has not encountered a threat of this degree in 15 years on the council.

Robert Ross frequently speaks on a variety of topics at council meetings.

In August, Robert Ross complained about a neighborhood trolley route through the Top of the World area that does not include a stop at the corner of Alta Laguna Boulevard and Chateau Way, as was the case with Laguna’s mainline bus system.

“It’s put a tremendous hardship on a lot of people,” he said at the Aug. 30 council meeting. “They are not happy about it.”

At that meeting Robert Ross called for eliminating Laguna’s city manager and city attorney positions.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce

Copyright © 2017, Daily Pilot

UPDATES

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with Robert Ross' not-guilty plea to firearms charges and additional details about Michael Ross' release from custody.

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Councilman Kelly Boyd, and with Robert Ross' comments at an Aug. 30 City Council meeting.

10:54 a.m.: This article was updated with details of Michael Ross' and Robert Ross' custody and bail, and with Robert Ross' residence.

This article was originally posted at 10:26 a.m.

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