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Petrilla's Past: Felony Assault With A Firearm

Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman is running for State Assembly in the 73rd District, but he has a previously unknown criminal past.

Political career of Jesse Petrilla could be affected by his past. Credit/Martin Henderson
Political career of Jesse Petrilla could be affected by his past. Credit/Martin Henderson


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.

Petrilla on 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.

Lisa Collins January 28, 2014 at 03:07 PM
How many of you drank and drove at 17? What if you killed someone or caused an accident? How many of you got high, stole a car, went for a joy ride, played a trick that went wrong, went driving with your friends and were speeding? How many people did something stupid and looking back wish they didn't? Every single one of us. The difference is, he got caught. So he took his punishment, did better that most of us and served our country and then went on to serve his community. Wow, what a bad guy! Get real people. If all you have to do is worry about a bad decision a guy made 13 years ago, I'd say you need a new hobby.
Shripathi Kamath January 28, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Martin, please accept my sincere admiration for having the journalistic courage to pursue and publish this. Wish we had more in the media doing this work of the press to keep people informed of their potential representatives. Thank you, and I take back some of the things I said about you behind your back. ____________________________________________________ Given that the man has served his time, it might be good to hear his comments so that constituents can get an idea of if this is a concern. "One felony count of dissuading a witness from testifying at a trial;" was dismissed, but I am curious as to what it was about.
Jason January 28, 2014 at 04:26 PM
Two years ago I decided to move my family out of LA county and into RSM due to the recommendation of a friend. One of my biggest requirements was safety. I am having a hard time understanding how the supposedly "safest" city has a man like this elected into office? I can understand forgiving someone who might of had a hard time with drugs or something where they are only harming themselves, but once you start trying to inflict harm on other people you cross the line for me. And with a gun! Are you people crazy trying to defend him? Someone above me was talking about how there was no victims here.. Did they miss the line that said shooting at an OCCUPIED vehicle? I am going to take a wild guess and say it was not the car that pressed charges in this case. But listen, I'm only 27 years old, i only recently got involved in politics because of how out of control the Federal government is. Why are we always having to choose the lesser of two evils? While it is possible Mr. Petrilla may or may not have gotten his act together, there are plenty of more able bodied people to take the job. In a time of crisis like this we need people with real morals who won't roll over for the highest bidder once they start playing with the big boys in Sacramento. I wish you well, Just not as my elected official.
Pete January 28, 2014 at 04:57 PM
Heck, we elected Obama. What is the big deal about electing this guy?
Annie G. January 28, 2014 at 05:03 PM
hahah---good one pete. still looking for my hope.
Pete January 28, 2014 at 05:05 PM
Good luck with that Annie :)
Donna Fleming January 28, 2014 at 06:20 PM
Yes, we elected Obama not knowing his true background. Birth certificates are still showing up. And, look what has happened to our country. We need to really check the back ground before supporting and voting for city and state government officials.
Eleanor R January 28, 2014 at 06:21 PM
In January 2012 Councilmember Petrilla not only voted in favor of prohibiting all persons required to register as sex offenders to enter a RSM park (if there were one), he seconded the motion of the second reading. This prohibition to enter a public, tax payer funded spaces applies to people who have committed an offense going back to the 1950s, may of whom have been convicted of misdemeanors, those whose sentence did not include one day in jail and who have had their convictions long since dismissed. ................................. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone... ................................. I had NO idea the good councilmember himself had a violent felony record. This is just dandy - we are to overlook his past while he harshly judges others. If that isn't par for the course. ................................. I would like to see people like him on a web site - complete with photo and address, and shudder at the thought that he can be present in the same park as my child.
Lisa Collins January 28, 2014 at 06:49 PM
My one day home and I am caught up in this blogging. So far on this thread we have Mr. Petrilla called an ex-con, a convicted felon, a bigot, a con man, a lying politician, and much more. Did you all miss the rest of the article? 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. What I find so interesting on these kinds of threads is the how easily everyone jumps on the bandwagon. It is so much easier to hate then to think for oneself. Did you notice how everyone believed every word that was written by the reporter and the posters? Everyone then continued to condemn and criticize. Were you there? Do you know what happened? Why do you automatically think he was a punk, gang banger? What about the other side of the story? I urge everyone to check the facts themselves. Ask questions, don't believe something because you read it somewhere. If it concerns you, do your research before you blast someone. If any of our politicians are considering a vote or voted in a direction you didn't agree with, find out why from the politician or their staff directly. Often times there is more to the story than a simple yes or no vote.
Shripathi Kamath January 28, 2014 at 07:08 PM
Lisa Collins January 28, 2014 at 06:49 PM "Did you notice how everyone believed every word that was written by the reporter and the posters?" __________________________________________________ Well, yes. Because the reporter wrote: "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." ___________________________________________________ and some poster named Lisa Collins wrote "According to court records, all but the first two counts of assault with a firearm were dismissed on Aug. 10, 2001." ___________________________________________________ The reporter wrote: "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." ___________________________________________________ and some poster named Lisa Collins wrote " At the completion of Petrilla’s probation, the court downgraded the felonies to misdemeanors and dismissed the charges" ___________________________________________________ "Ask questions, don't believe something because you read it somewhere. " ___________________________________________________ Fair enough. Can you give us a hint as to which part of what the reporter wrote should not be believed, and also which part of the poster named Lisa Collins that should not be believed?
Shripathi Kamath January 28, 2014 at 07:56 PM
Donna Fleming January 28, 2014 at 06:20 PM Yes, we elected Obama not knowing his true background. Birth certificates are still showing up. ___________________________________________________ Proving that he was born multiple times. That's some powerful stuff. IN PEACH!
Komfort January 28, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Shripathi, getting served... http://northridge.patch.com/groups/carl-petersen-iiis-blog/p/democracy-in-inaction
Poot Smelly January 28, 2014 at 09:31 PM
Dove Canyon Old Timer (AKA-Glen Acosta)! Yes, GLEN ACOSTA! A friend told me about your alias! I always wondered why you have cowtowed to Beall and Josephson. Do think they will pull you along to bigger & greater political things? How about your past record in New York?
Poot Smelly January 28, 2014 at 09:35 PM
Have you all heard that Bealls Party Giving Lady (Suzanne Singh) has "RESIGNED" as the Business Developer for RSM? Do you know the reason why? Hmmmmmm
Poot Smelly January 28, 2014 at 09:37 PM
Sorry Lawyer April, your and Martin's motivations about anyone in our city government have no credibiity in many minds! You have represented Tony Beall in Court?
Poot Smelly January 28, 2014 at 09:42 PM
Danielle and Eleonor, Jesse Petrilla does not have a Felony Record!
Glenn Acosta January 28, 2014 at 09:52 PM
Poot, Sorry but that's not me. I'm that old. How about you? I blog as Glenn Acosta. And my life hasn't been that lively. Kinda boring in comparison. I consider myself politically neutral. I'm just interested in helping make RSM a great place to live. No more, no less. I have two kids, so having a safe and wonderful community will benefit them and other kids. Frankly, I'm tired of reading political rancor. That does nothing to make our city a better place. Best regards, Glenn Acosta
Dove Canyon Oldtimer January 28, 2014 at 09:55 PM
Yes Poot, I am not Glenn Acosta. You really need to seek some professional help.
Sharon Y. January 28, 2014 at 09:59 PM
I agree Glen. Bottom line for me is Jesse was not straight forward with voters or donors. He has not changed much either, still can not answer a direct question when asked. I think it is time for him to resign , move on to a job and try to better himself and character.
Eleanor R January 28, 2014 at 10:36 PM
@Poot Smelly - right you are. Let's recap... he was convicted of multiple felonies, had them reduced to misdemeanors and then had the conviction set aside. Thus he has no felony record. Or criminal conviction. Disregarding my misphrasing - he voted to ban from public City Parks (since ruled unconstitutional) thousands of people who, in the past were convicted of misdemeanors, or possibly felonies reduced to misdemeanors, and then had those convictions set aside. Thus having no felony record. Or criminal conviction. Is what is good for the goose not good for the gander?
Shawn Gordon January 28, 2014 at 11:59 PM
The actual story is that Jesse had 12 Felony counts, he was convicted of two of them, I don't know why it was reduced, I didn't check. spent 240 days in jail, at which point the felonies were reduced to misdemeanors because of time served and possibly because of his age.
Ivan Pokusa January 29, 2014 at 11:11 AM
Wow!? I can not believe what I read because in many comments I practically read about myself: "How many of you drank and drove at 17? What if you killed someone or caused an accident? How many of you got high, stole a car, went for a joy ride, played a trick that went wrong, went driving with your friends and were speeding? How many people did something stupid and looking back wish they didn't? Every single one of us." I must tell you that I do not belong to your group of "young felons" (whether caught or not), I did not do any of these things. This is probably why people like me can not serve the public. You have to fit in the political standards to get a shot. And then anything is O.K.
RSM Family January 29, 2014 at 04:46 PM
ITA Ivan...our family never did any of those things...there is no excuse for his felonious behavior...he is unfit for office....bet there were drugs involved too...
Mike T January 29, 2014 at 07:39 PM
Hang on a minute, I need more popcorn. Brb...........
Mary E January 30, 2014 at 12:45 PM
Is it true Martin Henderson was fired the next day over this article?
Chris McLaughlin January 30, 2014 at 04:44 PM
That would be interesting, Mary. He hasn't written anything today, I don't think, and although he's still listed as the Editor, the couple of pieces from the last two days could have been queued up/ready for publication already. Martin, are you in the middle of a Snickers commercial right now?? (i.e. 'Want to get away for a while...?')
Shripathi Kamath January 30, 2014 at 04:50 PM
Mary E January 30, 2014 at 12:45 PM Is it true Martin Henderson was fired the next day over this article? ___________________________________________________ Um, no. See http://jimromenesko.com/2014/01/29/hale-global-lays-off-patch-employees/
Poot Smelly January 30, 2014 at 04:52 PM
Martin Henderson was chosen to be one of the Patch people to be laid off. He became too much of a liability for the parent company as did Suzanne Sigh became to Tony Beall.
JTTPW January 30, 2014 at 05:19 PM
Respectfully, it seems unlikely that an organization in charge of 900 Patch sites, in only two weeks, had the time to identify Martin, by the body of his work, and make a lightning fast move, hours after an article was published regarding a local politician. More likely, he got caught up in a wave of layoffs, as described below. Thank you: "Hundreds of employees were laid off at Patch today, just two weeks after AOL handed over the majority of its stake to Hale Global. Most of the journalists from its 900 hyperlocal sites were terminated, along with many of Patch’s corporate employees.." http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2014/01/29/hundreds-laid-off-at-aol-patch/
Chris McLaughlin January 30, 2014 at 07:16 PM
Okay, I was thinking of a Southwest Airlines commercial, not Snickers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh3XDMzcdtU

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