D.A. changes charges in JWA assault case

Prosecutors this week changed the charges against a Newport Beach woman who had been accused of ramming an Orange County sheriff's deputy with her car at John Wayne Airport in July.

Rebecca Lee McLaughlin, 49, now faces an attempted murder charge instead of attempted murder on a peace officer. She's also charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

She pleaded not guilty in Orange County Superior Court on Friday.

In July, prosecutors said McLaughlin was driving her SUV and broke a parking barricade in an airport parking structure before trying to exit the lot.

A sheriff's deputy heard the commotion and tried to stop McLaughlin, who then turned her wheels toward the deputy and tried to run him down, prosecutors said.

The deputy ended up on the hood of the SUV, McLaughlin crashed and the deputy arrested her, a sheriff's spokesman said at the time.

But the most recent criminal complaint against McLaughlin drops any mention of her alleged attack involving a deputy or police officer.

Prosecutors could not be reached Friday afternoon to explain why the charges were altered.

McLaughlin could still face a maximum sentence of life in prison on the attempted murder charge.

She is due back in court March 13. Her public defender, Julie Scalisi, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Carlton Biggs that she's hopeful the case will be resolved soon.

Asked if that means she's close to striking a plea agreement with the Orange County district attorney's office, Scalisi said, "I don't know."

McLaughlin remains in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

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