The Rev. Donald Lockhart’s three-year legal battle ended Monday when a judge sentenced him to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service for firing a warning shot at a man in a landlord-tenant dispute in Fresno.
Lockhart, 62, smiled after the punishment was announced in Fresno County Superior Court.
He credited his lawyers — Los Angeles attorney Hagop Kuyumjian and celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, who has defended such clients as the late Michael Jackson, actress Winona Ryder, politician Gary Condit and death row inmate Scott Peterson — for believing in him when local lawyers wouldn’t.
For three years, Lockhart faced rape and gun charges. In October, he pleaded no contest to felony assault with a firearm. In exchange for his plea, prosecutor Michelle West dismissed the rape allegations.
Lockhart is pastor emeritus of Central Community Development Center in Fresno.
He told police he fired a “a warning shot” near Roosevelt High School in June 2011 because he feared that a former tenant was going to harm him. A month after the shooting, Lockhart was arrested after a woman told police that he held her against her will and raped her on July 18, 2011.
The rape and gun allegations were aired during a court hearing in December 2012. The woman, who was in her 30s, testified that she wanted to rent a house from Lockhart. She testified that she was with her daughter and a cousin when she met Lockhart to see the house; he asked her to return later alone.
When she returned, she said, she paid Lockhart $120 for a credit check. She said she was impressed with Lockhart when he told her about his efforts to house the homeless.
During the visit, Lockhart mentioned that he and his wife were separated and he was lonely, the woman testified. The woman said she thought he was going to suggest they have sex in exchange for rent on the house, and she told him “no” before he could ask. That’s when Lockhart pushed her onto the couch and raped her, she testified.
Afterward, she told her mother, who called police.
Lockhart has contended the woman lied to police and on the witness stand. The Bee is not naming her because she is an alleged rape victim.
The woman victim showed up to court Monday morning and said she was upset with the plea agreement. She said she didn’t learn about it until after Lockhart entered his no-contest plea. Because Lockhart was sentenced late Monday afternoon, the victim and her mother left without addressing the court.
Judge Alan Simpson, who presided over Lockhart’s December 2012 hearing, said he does not fault the prosecution for dismissing the rape charges. Simpson said the alleged victim was a reluctant witness, and that she finally testified after she was taken into custody on another matter.
In the gun case, Simpson noted that the man’s son had assaulted Lockhart. The man then came within 15 feet of Lockhart, prompting Lockhart to fire a shotgun twice in the man’s direction.
Probation is appropriate, Simpson said, because Lockhart’s only prior offense was misdemeanor vandalism in 1991 — a crime that Kuyumjian said was expunged.
While on probation, Lockhart must attend an anger management program and mental health counseling, the judge said.