Saturday, August 20, 2005
By Erin Musgrave/Staff Writer
Hollister - The Hollister man accused of attempting to murder his ex-girlfriend and ensnared in a bizarre case fraught with allegations of witchcraft and Satanism pleaded no contest to one felony assault charge with a maximum prison sentence of four years.
Sontu Garcia pleaded no contest to one felony count of assault likely to commit great bodily injury and a misdemeanor evading police charge during a court hearing at the San Benito County Courthouse last week, escaping a possible life sentence if convicted of first-degree attempted murder, according to his attorney, Greg La Forge.
The District Attorney’s Office charged Garcia with first-degree attempted murder, domestic violence and evading police because prosecutors believed he tried to kill his ex-girlfriend, Brandy Raquel Jackson. Jackson said during a prior court hearing that Garcia tried to kill her because he believed it was the only way to reclaim a piece of his soul that she had stolen.
“We think it’s a fair resolution for anyone facing life in prison,” La Forge said. “The DA saw fit to dismiss all the charges and amend them to include the (assault charge).”
Prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Steven Wagner responded via fax Friday, stating that once La Forge agreed to charges requiring Garcia to spend time in prison that he was open to a plea bargain.
“The sentencing will be pursuant to a negotiated plea that will ensure that Garcia goes back to prison for at least three years,” Wagner stated. “Once the defense acknowledged and agreed that a prison term would be served, the idea of a negotiated plea became more reasonable.”
Garcia was arrested last November when Jackson reported that after a night of methamphetamine use, he choked her almost to the point of passing out because he “believes in witchcraft and he thinks I took something from him,” she said during a court hearing in March.
Jackson did not return phone calls for comment on Garcia’s significantly lighter sentence Friday, however she testified previously in court that he repeatedly tied her up and raped her, physically and emotionally abused her and forced her to stay with him for more than a year by force and fear.
Originally, the District Attorney charged Garcia with felony solicitation to commit murder after police discovered a cryptic note they believe Garcia wrote, asking a friend to help him kill Jackson. However, Judge Steven Sanders dismissed the solicitation charge during Garcia’s preliminary hearing, which is conducted like a trial in front of a judge, due to a lack of evidence and because some of the prosecution’s witnesses were not credible, he said.
La Forge believes the credibility issues concerning some of the primary witnesses were the basis for the District Attorney’s Office in dropping the most serious charges.
“The victim misled police and was caught in lies at the preliminary hearing stage,” he said. “But we were ready to go to trial.”
During the course of the preliminary hearing, La Forge and Wagner questioned witnesses, including a Hollister police detective, who testified that both Garcia and Jackson were involved with witchcraft and had a proclivity for bondage and rough sex.
Although the District Attorney’s Office agreed to three years, the San Benito County Probation Department can recommend Garcia serve the full four years, Wagner stated. Ultimately, a judge will decide how long Garcia stays behind bars.
Garcia will be sentenced on Sept. 7 at 9am at the San Benito County Courthouse, Department 1.