SANTA ANA – The trial of a former Huntington Beach police officer accused of sexually and physically abusing his ex-wife and former girlfriend ended abruptly Tuesday with most of the charges dismissed.
James Roberts, 36, was charged with 20 felony counts, including rape, sodomy by force, criminal threats, false imprisonment and aggravated assault. If convicted, he faced life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Instead, he pleaded guilty before Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick Donahue to felony vandalism and one count of misdemeanor domestic battery with corporal injury, which together carry a maximum term of four years in prison. Donahue, who had let the jury go home early Tuesday afternoon so the lawyers could work out an agreement, suspended the prison term, ordering Roberts to serve five years of probation and meet conditions that include completion of a 52-week batterers-treatment program.
The plea agreement between the prosecutor and the defense came after several days of testimony, including that of Roberts’ former wife, who had been on the stand about a day and a half.
County Deputy District Attorney John Christl told Donahue that he could not prove the remaining counts beyond a reasonable doubt.
“(After a) review of the evidence and the testimony elicited in the course of the trial, the prosecution feels we have proof problems, and we are unable to proceed,” Christl said afterward.
As he left the courthouse with Roberts, defense attorney John Barnett said the resolution reached was fair “after all the evidence was laid out.”
Roberts “is relieved to put the prosecution and the potential exposure behind him,” Barnett said.
Roberts’ former wife made a tearful plea to Donahue before the sentencing, saying that she “strongly disagreed” with the plea and that the two domestic-violence counts should have remained felonies. Another domestic-battery charge was among those dismissed.
“What James has done to our son has been extremely damaging,” she said, urging Roberts get counseling and apologize to her, their son and her family.
Donahue will dismiss the jury Wednesday.
By VIK JOLLY/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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