Judge refuses to lower bail for gator owner | TheUnion.com

Judge refuses to lower bail for gator owner

Photo courtesy NCSO

A judge refused to lower the bail for an alleged ex-felon who is currently facing domestic violence and weapons charges, as well as one count of the unlawful taking of a wild animal, after an alligator, a number of guns and ammunition were found at his house.

Joshua Michael Kerley, 36, has been charged with corporal injury to a cohabitant, criminal threats, false imprisonment by violence, child abuse, possession of firearm by a felon, being a person prohibited from owning or possessing ammunition, possession of an assault weapon, unlawful taking of a wild animal, interference with a phone and resisting or obstructing a peace officer.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court and is being held in Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bail.

It was the alligator that raised the judge’s eyebrows — and prompted him to deny a request for bail reduction by Kerley’s defense counsel, Ken Tribby.

“You had a 6-foot alligator? I think the DA’s come up with a good argument … this shows an extreme lack of judgement.”

—Judge Ersel Edwards

Tribby did successfully argue for a criminal protective order to be vacated, since the female victim did not want one.

According to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ow, Kerley assaulted the woman while she was holding a 4-month-old child, an incident Tribby characterized as pushing and shoving.

Ow said the woman initially reported that he head-butted her and told her, as she tried to leave, that the only place she would be going was “six feet under.”

“The person doesn’t desire the benefit of a protection order,” Judge Ersel Edwards noted before granting the request.

Tribby next pushed for a bail reduction, telling Edwards, “$100,000 is excessive.”

Ow argued that the purpose of bail includes public safety, pointing out the presence of an alligator in a residence where children were present.

“You had a 6-foot alligator?” an incredulous Edwards said.

“I think the DA’s come up with a good argument … this shows an extreme lack of judgement.”

“We’ve had a conversation about that,” a resigned Tribby said.

Kerley is set to return to court June 25 for a preliminary hearing into the evidence.

Kerley, a former semi-pro football player, was initially arrested June 3 after deputies were dispatched to his residence in the 12000 block of Hallwood Place.

When deputies attempted to take Kerley into custody, he tried to retreat back into the residence, slamming the door on a deputy.

Deputies returned to Kerley’s residence the following day, armed with a search warrant, and reportedly confiscated eight weapons and a significant amount of ammunition. Among the weapons seized were an AP-9 semi-automatic pistol, which looks like a small submachine gun, a Mini-14 rifle, an AR-10 rifle and a shotgun with a drum magazine that could hold 25 rounds.

Deputies also reportedly found a nearly 5-foot-long alligator inside a jam-packed garage.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens managed to capture it safely, using a catchpole to duct-tape its snout and back legs. The alligator was evaluated at the department’s wildlife lab and then taken to Wild Things, a rescue organization based in Weimar.

Kerley reportedly had owned the alligator for about five or six years and moved several times with the gator, from Montana to California, then to Oregon and back to California. According to the wardens, it is illegal to possess an exotic species without a permit or to transport it into the state.

In other court news:

— A 30-year-old Grass Valley man pleaded not guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, robbery and a bevy of other felony counts in court Thursday.

John William Grimes allegedly tied up and assaulted a man in the 14000 block of Idaho-Maryland Road June 3 in an attempt to obtain money. The man was taken to the hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the incident.

Grimes is facing charges of first-degree residential burglary, second-degree robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, assault causing bodily injury and false imprisonment.

He is being held without bail and is set to return to court June 20. A preliminary hearing into the evidence was set for June 27.

— A Colfax woman who allegedly was practicing law without a license was sentenced June 7 to one year in jail and three years probation.

Sarah O’Neal, 48, will have to serve 180 days after part of her sentence was suspended when she paid restitution to her victims; she will be allowed to apply for alternative sentencing.

O’Neal was charged with 16 counts of forgery, embezzlement, impersonation and the unauthorized practice of law after two parallel investigation by Placer and Nevada counties.

The Placer County District Attorney eventually declined to prosecute O’Neal, citing insufficient evidence.

O’Neal allegedly operated law offices in downtown Nevada City and in Colfax.

The investigation in Nevada County began after numerous complaints allegedly began to trickle into the DA’s Office about O’Neal not finishing or following through on legal matters for which she was retained as an attorney.

O’Neal allegedly was not a licensed attorney but had been working as one, handling civil, family law and real estate matters for several years in Nevada County.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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