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Former Yuba City man pleads out in sex assault case

While denying wrongdoing, a former Yuba City man pleaded no contest on Tuesday in Sutter County Superior Court to a drastically reduced sexual assault charge and was released from jail.

Michael Tomas Armistead cut a deal with the Sutter County District Attorney's Office and pleaded to a misdemeanor count of statutory rape. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed a felony charge of lewd and lascivious acts. All the allegations involved Armistead's relatives.

Anu Chopra, deputy Sutter County district attorney, said the conviction deal was something the victim wanted.

"We're honoring the wishes of the victims," Chopra said later. "What (Armistead) did to them left them broken and they've suffered for years."

Defense attorney Craig Leri said that despite the plea, Armistead is innocent.

"He's not guilty," Leri said. "But, the cost of going ahead in the case was prohibitive."

Under terms of the plea bargain, Judge Chris Chandler ordered Armistead to serve three years of probation, complete sex-offender counseling and to stay away from the victim and two other relatives.

Armistead was also sentenced to a year in jail, but given credit for time served and released. He had been in custody since Nov. 2, 2011.

He was not required to register as a sex offender.

Armistead was convicted on Tuesday of an incident which occurred sometime between New Year's Eve of 2007 and the following morning.

A Sutter County jury failed to reach a verdict in October on four felony sexual assault counts involving two of Armistead's family members. Prosecutors immediately sought a second trial.

The 44-year-old had been facing more than 20 years in prison.

Judge H. Ted Hansen presided over the 10-day trial.

Prosecutors claimed a pattern of sexual assault occurred between 2003 and 2008 and charged Armistead with harming two relatives, although three alleged victims testified at trial.

Leri said Armistead was falsely accused by vindictive relatives who were incensed when Armistead cut off financial support and became jealous of his new family.

On Tuesday, Leri reiterated his belief that the victim was a treacherous liar and called her a "whack case."

"There's a great likelihood that juries would've been hung continuously," Leri said. "He's already spent a year in jail and another trial would've been another six or eight months, which is ridiculous. He's just saying enough is a enough."

During the trial, Leri criticized investigators and focused heavily on what he said were inconsistent and ever-changing allegations against Armistead.

Both women labored to recall specific times, locations and frequency of abuse.

Chopra said discrepancies were minor and noted sexual assault victims commonly struggle with such details. Chopra said the women were consistent on critical elements.

Key evidence against Armistead included a recorded phone conversation in which a woman asked Armistead why he molested her.

"You and I have talked about this," Armistead said on the tape. "We have said our peaces. I have made my apologies."

Chopra said she was satisfied with the outcome of the case.

"We got a plea, we got a conviction," Chopra said. "Hopefully, this brings them some closure and helps them move on with their lives."

CONTACT Rob Parsons at rparsons@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.


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