Fresno police say a couple dressed up as federal agents and tried to break into a home before speeding off in a Lexus.
James Lasek, 35, and Lindsay Winter, 31, faced serious prison time if convicted of the armed encounter in southeast Fresno in June.
Instead, a judge on Monday sentenced the couple to 270 days in jail and three years of probation. A defense lawyer said the Fresno County Superior Court criminal case was overblown.
“At worst, my client was guilty of bad judgment,” said lawyer Ernest Scott Kinney, who defended Winter.
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According to Kinney, Winter was kidnapped, robbed and sexually assaulted in Clovis on May 12. Three weeks later, Winter called Clovis police saying she had a break in the case and wanted their assistance. When police said they couldn’t help, Winter and her fiancé, Lasek, went to her alleged attackers’ apartment to take pictures and get evidence.
But Fresno police said Winter and Lasek dressed in all black, wore tactical raid vests and armed themselves with a handgun and a shotgun. They then attempted to gain entry into the apartment by repeatedly kicking the front door and identifying themselves as federal agents, Fresno police Lt. Carl McKnight said.
After a neighbor confronted them, the suspects pointed guns at him and ordered him to stay back. The pair then fled in a white Lexus, but not before the neighbor was able to rip the license plate off the car, which led to the arrests, McKnight said.
At worst, my client was guilty of bad judgment.
Fresno attorney Ernest Scott Kinney who defended Lindsay Winter
Court records say Lasek was charged with assault with a firearm, possession of an assault weapon and impersonating an officer. Winter was charged with assault with a firearm, impersonating an officer, unlawfully carrying an unloaded handgun in public and making a false report to police.
In a plea agreement on Aug. 21, Lasek pleaded no contest to possession of an assault weapon; Winter pleaded no contest to making a false report to a police officer.
The incident happened in the 400 block of South Waverly Lane near Clovis Avenue and Kings Canyon Road.
After Lasek and Winter were identified as the owners of the car – which Winter reported as stolen shortly after the incident – officers obtained search warrants for several locations in Clovis and found both weapons along with the clothing and tactical gear used in the attempted invasion, as well as a high-power tactical rifle. Both suspects also made admissions regarding the crime, McKnight said.
But Kinney said on Monday there was never any attempt to do a clandestine home invasion. “It happened at 1:40 in the afternoon,” Kinney said.
The incident happened during the afternoon of June 4 in the 400 block of South Waverly Lane in southeast Fresno.
According to Kinney and court records, Winter told the Clovis Police Department on May 12 that she was a victim of a crime, saying she lost consciousness after having one drink at Martin’s Bar in Old Town Clovis. She told police she then woke up to find two men trying to rape her inside a SUV. As the two men ripped her clothing, she fought them with them and “pleaded with them to let her go,” court documents say.
Winter managed to escape and get help from a passing motorist. But her money and credit cards were taken from her, the documents say.
Winter’s attackers contacted her via Facebook on June 4, Kinney said. Winter pretended to be friendly with them and was given directions to their location. Winter then made two calls to the Clovis Police Department in hopes that police would arrest her attackers, Kinney said.
Clovis police, however, advised Winter that “the case had not been sent over to detectives yet and there was nothing they could do,” Kinney says in court documents. This caused Winter to become distraught and confused, Kinney said.
She decided to go to her attackers’ location with Lasek. Because Clovis police would not help her, Kinney said, “her plan was to call the Fresno PD to have her attackers arrested,” Kinney said.
Winter took an unloaded handgun to the location, but denied pointing it at anyone, Kinney said. She identified herself as law enforcement, but was dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants, tennis shoes, a hat and sunglasses – not tactical gear, Kinney said.
She and Lasek left after the neighbor confronted them.
“Winter is deeply ashamed of her actions,” Kinney said. “She was scared and made a big mistake when she tried to undo her actions by reporting her vehicle as stolen.”
Winter’s attackers were never arrested, Kinney said.