Crime

DA unexpectedly drops attempted murder, assault charges against Tye Champ

Tye Glenn Champ Jr makes his first court appearance in Fresno County Superior Court in August 2014. In a surprise move, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 dismissed felony charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon against the former California gubernatorial candidate.
Tye Glenn Champ Jr makes his first court appearance in Fresno County Superior Court in August 2014. In a surprise move, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 dismissed felony charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon against the former California gubernatorial candidate. plopez@fresnobee.com

In a surprise move, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office on Friday dismissed felony charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon against former California gubernatorial candidate Tye Glenn Champ Jr.

But Champ, 49, still faces life in prison for other crimes.

Prosecutor Dennis Verzosa told Superior Court Judge James Kelley that his motion to dismiss charges was “in the interest of justice.”

Verzosa said the decision to dismiss was made after jurors earlier this month voted 9-3 to find Champ not guilty of the two charges.

The jury, however, did find Champ guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony, and guilty of misdemeanor vandalism.

The felony firearms conviction makes Champ eligible for a sentence of 25 years to life in prison under the Three Strikes law because he has two felony convictions for assault with the intent to commit rape in 1993. He also has a manslaughter conviction in 1998.

Fresno defense attorney Eric Schweitzer, who is defending Champ, said Friday he plans to file a motion that will contest the legality of the sex crimes convictions.

According to Schweitzer, court records show that Champ was represented by the Public Defender’s Office when he pleaded no contest to the felony sex charges. At the time, the Public Defender’s Office also represented the two victims, Schweitzer said.

It’s unconstitutional for the Public Defender to represent the victim and the defendant in the same case, Schweitzer said. “It’s a clear conflict of interest,” he said.

Schweitzer’s motion will be heard Jan. 8 when Champ is scheduled to be sentenced.

Champ has been in Fresno County Jail since his arrest on Aug. 8, 2014, for shooting a man in the foothill town of Prather. He contends he shot John Price III in self-defense.

Because the jury was deadlocked 9-3 on the attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon charges, Verzosa could have retried Champ.

On Friday, Verzosa told the judge that after consulting with his supervisors and evaluating the evidence, the DA’s office decided not to try Champ a second time.

In his bid for governor in the June 2014 primary election, Champ received 76,066 votes, which was 1.8 percent of the statewide tally.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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