A 19-year-old Santa Maria man on Wednesday pleaded guilty to lesser charges to avoid trial for threatening a California Highway Patrol officer near Los Alamos at the end of a pursuit in July 2012.
Michael Paul Ledesma, who was subsequently shot and critically wounded by the CHP officer, appeared Wednesday before Superior Court Judge Patricia Kelly in Santa Maria for a readiness and settlement hearing, during which he settled the case.
Ledesma pleaded guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer, and to a second count after admitting a gang allegation, according to Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy.
He also pleaded guilty to an added count of assault against a woman who made the 9-1-1 call that initiated the pursuit, Duffy said.
Ledesma will be sentenced to seven years in prison when he is back in court for sentencing Oct. 9 — a date that was previously set for a trial confirmation hearing, Duffy said.
The charges stem from an incident that began about 4 p.m. July 15, 2012, when CHP officers and Santa Barbara County sheriff s deputies responded to a 9-1-1 call from Ledesma's female companion, who reported that he was threatening her and her baby with a knife in a vehicle near Los Alamos.
Prosecutors allege that Ledesma confronted CHP Sgt. Dan Barba with a knife after Barba pulled his cruiser behind Ledesma s vehicle on Highway 135, two miles west of Los Alamos. Barba, who testified during the preliminary hearing, was the first officer to arrive on scene.
Believing he was in imminent danger, Barba fired his gun several times, and Ledesma was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with critical injuries.
Last December, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley ruled that Barba was justified in shooting Ledesma.
On Wednesday, Ledesma accepted one of several plea deals offered by prosecutors, who in July said Ledesma’s case was likely headed to trial.
With the deal, Duffy said Ledesma waived one year of custody credits and vacated a date for trial, which was set to begin Oct. 28.
Ledesma, who was being held in the County Jail in lieu of $1.23 million bail, originally faced four felony charges, including attempted murder of a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer; assault with a deadly weapon on a woman who made the 9-1-1 call; and felony child endangerment.
He also faced special allegations of use of deadly weapon and street terrorism, and committing the offense for the benefit of or at the direction of or in association with a criminal street gang.
Duffy told Noozhawk he was satisfied with the results.
“It was a very good disposition of the case based on the underlying facts and circumstances,” he said.