By Martin Henderson
Long before he became a politician in Orange County, Jesse Petrilla stood before a judge in Placer County Superior Court facing felony charges.
Now a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman and candidate for the State Assembly's 73rd District, Petrilla had been originally charged with 14 counts against the State of California, but on Aug. 10, 2001, everything had been whittled away to just two felony assaults with one enhancement for using a firearm.
“Mr. Petrilla,” said Judge James L. Roeder, “you have signed this written plea form stating that you are entering this plea and giving up certain rights. … And you understand what rights you are giving up and the consequences of your plea?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
“Mr. Petrilla, in this felony complaint in Count One, you are accused on March 11 of this year assault with a firearm,” the judge explained. “That’s a violation of Penal Code Section 245, subparagraph (a) (2), as a felony. To that offense, what is your plea?”
“No contest, your Honor.”
Petrilla answered “no contest” to the second charge against him, as well as the enhancement of using a firearm.
“Do you understand for purposes of your criminal record and sentencing that no contest pleas are treated as guilty pleas?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
Jesse Nathan Petrilla, now 30, and seeking to represent most of South Orange County in Sacramento in the State Assembly, was in 2010 the youngest city councilman ever elected in Rancho Santa Margarita. Yet before becoming a lawmaker, he fired a .22 caliber rifle at an occupied vehicle about five months before his 18th birthday. Tried as an adult, he was sentenced to 240 days in jail and five years probation.
The crimes perpetrated by Petrilla occurred in 2001, when he was arrested by the Placer County Sheriff’s Department.
Originally, the district attorney charged Petrilla with 12 felony and two misdemeanor crimes, including the sentencing enhancement of using a firearm which included:
- Three felony counts of assault with a firearm;
- Four felony counts of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle;
- One felony count of dissuading a witness from testifying at a trial;
- Four felony counts of discharging a firearm with gross negligence;
- One misdemeanor count of exhibiting a firearm;
- One misdemeanor count of exhibiting a deadly weapon, a chain.
According to court records, all but the first two counts of assault with a firearm were dismissed on Aug. 10, 2001.
Petrilla was granted early release from probation in December 2004. At the completion of Petrilla’s probation, the court downgraded the felonies to misdemeanors and dismissed the charges.
Monday did not respond to an interview request by phone; he indicated via e-mail he was unavailable to talk, but
wanted questions e-mailed to him.
Last week, Petrilla announced he had finished 2013 with more than $100,000 cash on hand from more than 200 unique contributors to his Assembly campaign.
Patch could not find any mention of the 2001 conviction by Petrilla during either his campaign in 2010 for City Council or his current campaign for State Assembly in the 73rd district.