Stabbing verdict yields lesser charge |

Stabbing verdict yields lesser charge

Jurors convicted a Penn Valley man of attempted voluntary manslaughter Thursday for last year’s stabbing of a Nevada County sheriff’s deputy.

Robert A. Richards, 39, faces up to 11 years in prison at sentencing but could have received up to life behind bars, had jurors convicted him on a greater charge of attempted murder of an officer, said Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson.

Jurors convicted Richards on the lesser charge after less than a day of deliberations.

“We felt that (Richards) tried to get away twice,” jury forewoman Shannon Porter said. “He tried to run rather than pursue the officer.”

The difference between attempted manslaughter and attempted murder in this case, Wolfson said, was absence of malice.

Jurors also found Richards guilty of assault with a deadly weapon on an officer, resisting arrest and firearm possession by a felon. Jurors also found true special allegations that Richards used a deadly weapon but rejected special allegations that the deputy suffered great bodily injury.

“He went to work the next day,” Porter said, adding that the medical testimony didn’t support the injury claims.

On the night of June 17, 2001, Deputy James Bennett stopped to question Richards near Penn Valley Drive.

The two knew each other from a prior Richards case that ended in a felony conviction, and Richards fled as Bennett radioed dispatchers for a warrant check.

The deputy tackled Richards, who stabbed Bennett in the neck with a folding knife and ran again. Bennett caught Richards again and arrested him.

Richards’ knife came close to striking Bennett’s spinal cord and artery and killing or paralyzing him, Wolfson argued.

Richards’ court-appointed lawyer, Glenn Kottcamp, called Bennett’s injury a “flesh wound.” He also said Richards was drunk and intent on fleeing rather than killing.

The firearm charge stemmed from an inoperable handgun found in Richards’ glove compartment.

After the verdicts, Wolfson praised the jurors for their work. Kottcamp declined comment.

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