Despite Hesitation to Admit to Crime, Accused Pleads No Contest to Get ‘Outta Jail Today’ – He Spent 622 Days Awaiting Trial

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By Joseph Shepard

SANTA BARBARA, CA – A man here this week in Santa Barbara Superior Court, Dept. 2 opted to take a deal and plead no contest to a felony count of threatening a crime with intent to terrorize, despite initially claiming that he “didn’t threaten” the victim in the crime.

He told the court he took the deal to get “outta jail today.”

The defendant, Nicholas Ledbetter, was charged with numerous other felonies and misdemeanors in June of 2020, but only entered pleas on the felony count and a misdemeanor charge of contempt of court as part of the plea deal.

Ledbetter was represented by Deputy Public Defender Mark Owens, and appeared in court via Zoom while in custody.

Deputy District Attorney Hannah Meyer initiated the proceedings by reviewing the terms of the plea with Ledbetter. While sharing the plea form on Zoom, Meyer asked Ledbetter first to affirm the fact that he had signed the form and had time to review it himself, which he did.

Meyer then explained the constitutional rights that the defendant would be giving up by entering his plea, including the right to a speedy public jury trial, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to remain silent.

DDA Meyer listed the crimes that Ledbetter would be pleading to and asked if he understood, at which point he expressed his disappointment in the fact that the felony charge was included, explaining that he “didn’t really want a felony on [his] record,” but that he would take the plea bargain because “it’s gonna get [him] outta jail today.”

Despite this, Ledbetter did say afterwards that he understood the crimes which he was pleading no contest to, and said that he was fine with it and only said what he did to “voice [his] opinion” on the matter.

DDA Meyer then said that, in exchange for the no contest plea, the defendant would be sentenced to 16 months in state prison, but that it would be a “paper commitment.” This means the defendant will not actually have to serve the time in jail, because he had already served so much time awaiting trial that he had enough credits to cover the entirety of the sentence.

After explaining to the defendant that many of his other charges would be dropped with Harvey waivers, Meyer listed other penalties that the defendant would face, including a 10-year no contact order with the victim and admitting to a violation of probation in another case.

At this point, Meyer asked Ledbetter to affirm the factual basis of his plea, which stated that he “willfully and unlawfully threatened to kill” the victim with the intent to threaten them and that, at the time of the crime, he was restricted from having contact with the victim due to a protective order.

When asked to confirm this with a “yes” or “no,” Ledbetter hesitated, saying yes, but adding that “I didn’t threaten her, but that’s okay, I’ll just go for it.”

Meyer then began to tell the defendant that he should not enter his plea if he had any hesitation, but Ledbetter interrupted to say that he was fine with entering the plea, agreeing to admit to the factual basis despite what he had said earlier.

Ledbetter then entered his pleas of “no contest” to the felony and misdemeanor, also admitting that the felony was a serious one and acknowledging that his no contest plea would be treated the same as a guilty plea by the court.

Before accepting the plea, however, Judge Kathleen Diesman asked Ledbetter to confirm that he was pleading no contest because he believed it was in his best interest to do so. After Ledbetter confirmed this, the judge accepted his plea, found him guilty on both counts, and sentenced him to 16 months in state prison for the felony count.

Due to the large number of credits that the defendant had: a total of 622 (nearly two years), which exceeded the number he needed, Judge Diesman asked him if he agreed to waive the excess credits.

To this, Ledbetter jokingly asked, “Can I use them for a later date?” Judge Diesman responded to this in good humor, saying that it was “one of the best questions [she’s] heard,” and Ledbetter subsequently agreed to waive the credits.

Judge Diesman also sentenced him to one year for the misdemeanor, which will also be covered by time served credits, and various fines. Ledbetter will also have to submit to DNA sampling, and a new protective order was issued against him which will last for 10 years.

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