A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices in Los Angeles on Wednesday reversed part of the conviction of a former LA County sheriff's deputy who brutally assaulted his ex-girlfriend in Fullerton five years ago. The three justices agreed that Orange County Superior Court Judge James Rogan erred in his jury instructions before Sean Paul Delacerda was found guilty in April 2011 of one felony count each of assault with a firearm, kidnapping, false imprisonment by violence, and one misdemeanor count of domestic violence battery. A sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm was also found true. Rogan would sentence the four-year veteran of the LASO force to 13 years in state prison.
But the judge "was required to instruct the jury to consider whether the movement of the victim (during a physical struggle) was merely incidental to the commission of the domestic violence battery," the justices concluded. "And, since the failure to so instruct was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the kidnapping conviction must be reversed."
Justices David Thompson, Richard Aronson and Ray Ikola upheld 31-year-old Delacerda's convictions on the other counts, which were not challenged in the appeal. He could either face another trial on the kidnapping count or be re-sentenced without that charge, concluded the justices, who did find there was ample evidence to prove the kidnapping.
Delacerda's conviction came nearly a year to the day after he broke into the home of a woman he had dated briefly before she broke it off, explaining she needed some space to deal with her mother's death. Shortly after their relationship cooled, they met for lunch, after which she visited another ex-boyfriend.
The following day, the woman walked into her home to discover the uninvited Delacerda was already there waiting for her. He demanded to read her emails, accused her of cheating and subjected her to being grabbed, chased, tackled, climbed on top of, silenced with his brutish hand, dragged into her bedroom and pushed into her closet. At one point, as he sat on top of her so she could not escape and held his hand over her mouth so she could not scream, Delacerda put the barrel of a gun he'd just placed a bullet in into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
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The gun did not fire, and the sheriff's deputy then pointed the weapon at the scared-shitless woman, who was told to read him her emails or he'd fire. She eventually managed to get away, although Delacerda did jump on the hood of her car as she began to drive off.
In her victim statement to Rogan, she said she thought she was about to die that day in her home. She added that she continued to have panic attacks and had a hard time trusting people.