Man Pleads No Contest to Arson of Mom’s Car and Vandalism after Long-Running Hearing

By Tommy Nguyen

SANTA BARBARA, CA – During his felony pretrial on Thursday this week, Thomas J. Lasater pleaded no contest to felony arson of a structural property, and was released from custody to begin probation, his jail term suspended.

Lasater was accused of damaging and setting his mother’s car on fire. The preliminary hearing ended after many testimonies, including his mother’s.

The pre-trial began with Judge Shawn Bessey reciting the agreements between the defense and the prosecution, in which Lasater would be pleading to Count 1 of the charges.

“He’ll receive the middle term of two years,” Judge Bessey stated, “however, execution of that sentence will be suspended for a period of three years. He’s on supervised probation.”

The judge also noted Lasater will be given credit for the time he has already served, which was 108 days in custody. The standard terms of probation include “arson, registration and restitution.”

Judge Bessey then informed Lasater of any consequences that go with disobeying probation—if he violates it he will be most likely be taken into custody to serve out his sentence.

Before the Lasater pleaded to the charges, the judge began the standard procedures of confirming he was knowingly and willfully pleading to the charges against him, that he understood his rights and the consequences of this plea.

Judge Bessey, after the no contest plea, found Lasater guilty of Count 1 based on “the substantial facts” from the previous hearings.

The prosecution confirmed it was dismissing Count 2 of the charges.

The judge then recalled the sentencing, noting that the execution of the sentence would be suspended for a period of three years, considering the domestic violence against Lasater’s mother.

Judge Bessey then reminded Lasater of all the standards and terms of the supervised probation, including staying away from the mother’s home.

About The Author

Tommy is a sophomore majoring in Economics and minoring in Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He is an international student from Vietnam and fueled with the frustration agaisnt flawed justice system that lets down the minority. He is aspired to become a criminal justice attorney and will hopefully attend law school in 2025.

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