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Former San Diego city attorney, 92, pleads guilty to killing son and will get probation

Former San Diego city attorney, 92, pleads guilty to killing son and will get probation
Richard Peck, a former San Diego deputy city attorney, appears at his arraignment in November in San Diego Superior Court. (Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A 92-year-old former San Diego deputy city attorney who shot his allegedly abusive son in the head as he slept pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter and will be placed on probation.

Richard Peck sat in a wheelchair, flanked by two defense lawyers, as he told San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lewis that he understood what his change of plea from not guilty meant.

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“I went to law school,” he reminded the judge.

Lewis noted that voluntary manslaughter is defined as taking the life of a human in the heat of passion, not with malice. She said the maximum punishment for that crime is 11 years in state prison.

Following terms of the plea agreement, the judge dismissed a murder charge against Peck.

She said Peck would be placed on probation for three years, with home detention and a GPS ankle bracelet, when he is sentenced on March 28.

Defense attorney Douglas Gilliland told the judge the case “is one of extreme psychological abuse” by the son, who Gilliland said was an alcoholic who tried to frighten his father into a fatal heart attack.

The attorney said Robert “Robbie” Peck, 51, was in the middle of a divorce and had moved into his father’s Old Town home early last year.

On Nov. 14, the son smashed his father’s phone — his only connection to the outside world — made a threatening comment and went to bed, according to court records.

Soon after, the elder Peck shot him with a shotgun. Then he went into the street and yelled for help, saying he’d shot his son.

Peck was arrested and charged with murder. A judge cut his $1-million bail in half and allowed Peck’s release over the objection of Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Shim, who called the shooting “an execution.”

On Wednesday, Shim agreed to the plea bargain.

“It’s quite an unusual case,” Shim said out of court. “Definitely tragic. There was probably a better way for Mr. Peck to handle things.”

He said his office has prosecuted few homicide cases with a defendant as old or as well-educated as Peck.

Peck worked for a time in the San Diego city attorney’s office, then as a civil litigator for the law firm then known as Procopio Price. It is now called Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch.

Gilliland, at a previous court hearing, outlined some of the abuse Peck had allegedly suffered from his son, who once hurled a vase at him and on other occasions would suddenly scream in his father’s ear, hoping the older man would suffer a fatal heart attack.

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Police were called to the Peck home 14 times last summer, and Robert Peck was once committed for a mental health evaluation. The younger Peck also tried to get his father to amend his will to leave his son more money than his daughter, Gilliland said.

Peck’s daughter and son-in-law flew in from Georgia after his arrest and were trying to arrange for him to move into an assisted living facility, Gilliland said.

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