Felony Charge in Gun Self-Defense Case Reduced to Misdemeanor after Judge Learns Details

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By Ava Schwartzapfel

RIVERSIDE, CA – Nicole Zapien’s felony firearm charge was reduced to a misdemeanor level offense in Riverside Hall of Justice Tuesday, and Zapien was sentenced to one year probation by Judge Gail O’Rane.

This settlement conference began with Judge O’Rane explaining the court’s decision to reduce Count 1 of Zapien’s felony charge to a misdemeanor, the willful discharge of a firearm that could result in injury or death.

The judge first confirmed that a person pulled a gun on Zapien and a person with her. Zapien then grabbed her weapon out of a suitcase, O’Rane continued, and it was negligently discharged—or discharged due to user error.

“There were discrepancies between how and where the gun was fired,” the judge continued, but Zapien’s lack of criminal record combined with a witness report convinced the court that this count should be a misdemeanor.

Following this clarification, Zapien then pleaded guilty to this misdemeanor level offense. Judge O’Rane then introduced the second charge, drawing a firearm in a threatening manner, in a public place, a misdemeanor as well. Zapien pleaded guilty to this charge.

Judge O’Rane ordered summary probation for one year, a 60-day jail sentence (for which she currently has zero credits) serving on work release, doing hard labor through an alternative sentencing program in a neighboring county.

The judge then confirmed with Zapien that she was in compliance with the firearm limitation form that she would be served, to which Zapien affirmed. The judge then explained that this form states that, for up to 10 years, Zapien cannot own, posses, or have under her custody or control, firearms or ammunition.

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