The longtime martial arts instructor for former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona was convicted Thursday of criminally threatening a golfer during a dispute that began with a wayward fairway shot.
Raymond Yi was acquitted of all other charges, including three felony counts of assault with a firearm, by a San Bernardino County jury that deliberated less than a day in a case that drew attention to Carona's troubled reserve deputy program.
Yi's attorney, John D. Barnett, had maintained that his client was acting in self-defense during a confrontation with the foursome playing ahead of him in a 2005 game at Los Serranos Golf & Country Club in Chino Hills. Barnett said Thursday he was pleased that Yi was cleared of the gun charges but disappointed that he wasn't fully exonerated. "I just don't think it's a jail-time case," he said, adding that he would argue for probation despite the fact that Yi could face three years in prison for the felony count on which he was convicted.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Nimisha Gohil also expressed disappointment. Jurors, she said, told her after returning their verdict that they were not convinced that Yi's gun had been loaded. "They felt he did it," she said, "but weren't sure the gun was loaded. At no point did they think it was self-defense."
The dispute resulting in Yi's arrest began at the 13th hole at the Los Serranos club, where he was playing in a foursome behind a group that included Marcelo Bautista, a Santa Rosa math teacher, and his uncle, Gustavo Resendiz.
Gohil tried to prove that Yi drew his gun and threatened the men's lives twice after Bautista hit his ball into a water hazard, then refused to get it.
Barnett said the evidence showed that Yi pulled his gun only once, and then only after Resendiz had swung a golf club his way. He also repeatedly reminded jurors of the $10-million civil lawsuit filed by Bautista and his uncle.
The case drew headlines because Yi, sworn in as an Orange County sheriff's reserve deputy in 2002, was among friends and allies of Carona who allegedly misused their badges. The embarrassments raised questions about whether the credentials were handed out as political favors -- an allegation Carona has denied.