Former Clovis cop Pennington rejects plea deal

The Fresno BeeNovember 21, 2013 

While awaiting trial on domestic-violence charges, a former Clovis police officer beat his ex-girlfriend again, cutting her eye, a prosecutor contended Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

Kyle Pennington, however, said he is not guilty of hurting the woman.

In fact, he turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in no prison sentence for him if he pleaded guilty to one felony count of domestic violence and a misdemeanor.

In exchange for his plea, Pennington would have faced up to a year in jail, prosecutor Kelly Smith said in court Thursday.

Because Pennington rejected the offer, he now has two criminal cases that accuse him of a half-dozen felony charges and two misdemeanors involving his ex-girlfriend.

If convicted, he would face a prison sentence.

In the newest case, Smith charged Pennington with committing corporal injury to his ex-girlfriend and violating a court protective order on Sept. 18.

Smith also charged Pennington with violating the protective order on Oct. 14 when he allegedly tried to persuade his ex from testifying against him in his pending criminal trial stemming from an incident last summer.

Pennington's troubles began June 4 when Sanger police went to his home and discovered the woman wearing a torn T-shirt. She also had a mark on her left cheek and bruises on her arms, police said.

According to police, the victim told officers that Pennington had grabbed and pushed her, choked her and dragged her around their living room.

Pennington, who began working for the Clovis Police Department in 2007, resigned weeks after his June 5 arrest.

On Sept. 19, Judge David Gottlieb ordered him to stand trial on charges of corporal injury to his ex-girlfriend, false imprisonment and assault stemming from the June incident. The judge made his ruling after several Sanger officers testified at Pennington's preliminary hearing.

At the time, Gottlieb admonished Pennington that a protective order from June remained in place. The order prohibited him from contacting his ex-girlfriend or being near her. "I'm pretty serious when I say that," Gottlieb told Pennington. On Thursday, Gottlieb learned that Pennington had not heeded his order.

The alleged victim testified that despite the court order, she and Pennington had lived together in Sanger until late September, when he allegedly assaulted her again. After the alleged assault, she broke up with him, she said.

The ex-girlfriend then went into detail about an incident that happened during the early hours of Sept. 18. She testified that she and Pennington had argued over her use of her cell phone. She said he grabbed her and punched her in the chest and cut her above her left eye with his elbow.

"I couldn't see. I felt blood coming down my face," she testified.

The woman said she wanted to see a doctor, but Pennington was reluctant. She testified that Pennington used bathroom tissue to soak up the blood, then flushed the tissues down the toilet.

The woman said she thought about calling police but couldn't because she felt sorry for Pennington. "He started crying and throwing up and saying, 'I'm going to prison,' " the woman testified.

After she insisted on seeing a doctor, Pennington took the woman to a hospital in Fresno, she said. While Pennington waited outside, she said she took a photograph of her cut and also called a friend in law enforcement.

Meantime, Pennington texted her, she said, saying they needed to leave the hospital. "I was scared, but I left the ER," she testified.

Pennington drove her to WalMart in Sanger and purchased ointment and bandages, she said. He then took care of the cut at their home, she said.

Because she had called her law enforcement friend, police came to their home and arrested Pennington, she testified. She said she initially lied to police about her injury, saying a curtain rod fell and hit her. "I was scared Kyle would be really mad if I told them what happened," she testified.

But soon after, she moved out and told authorities what happened, she said.

On Oct. 14, she met with Smith and other law enforcement officials. During the meeting, Pennington called her several times and also texted her, she testified. One of the texts from Pennington, which was entered into evidence, said: "If you testify, we will both go to jail."

Pennington is free on $95,000 bail. Because court ended Thursday before the woman could complete her testimony, Pennington's preliminary hearing will resume on Dec. 12.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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