California man sentenced to prison after guilty plea in shooting |

California man sentenced to prison after guilty plea in shooting

by Merrie Leininger, Staff writer

A California man was sentenced Monday in District Court to prison after pleading guilty to shooting at his ex-stepfather.

Chad Thomas Ricci, 36, could have received up to 15 years in jail for the crime of shooting a firearm from a vehicle. He also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor.

District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Ricci to 2-5 years in prison for count one and one year in jail for count two. Ricci will receive credit for 90 days he has already spent in jail. When released, he must stay away from the victim and not own or possess a firearm.

There was discussion by Gibbons and the attorneys about the punishment mandated by the state Legislature. Gibbons said the long sentence was intended to discourage drive-by shootings by gang members and that Ricci would only be facing a gross misdemeanor if he had stood beside his car and shot at his ex-stepfather.

Ricci was arrested March 14 after he came to Robert McElhaney’s home, attempted to take a mailbox from the yard and had a verbal exchange with McElhaney. McElhaney testified that he told Ricci he was calling the police, but was only standing in the front yard with the phone when Ricci put the mailbox in his trunk, turned his car around and fired the gun at him through the window.

McElhaney testified that the incident had made him so afraid that he now always locks his doors and keeps all the lights on.

“I feel, in a moment of anger, he could have taken my life. I would hate for what happened to me to happen to anyone in this courtroom,” he said.

Ricci’s attorney, Mark Jackson, argued that Ricci did not mean to harm McElhaney, but only scare him. He said while Ricci aimed the gun at the man, at the last moment, he moved the gun slightly. He said Ricci was only about 20 feet from the victim, but he managed to miss him by about 12 feet.

Jackson said Ricci does not have a violent history, did not understand the extent of the crime and is remorseful.

“I’ve seen an extreme amount of regret and understanding of what caused the incident,” he said.

Deputy District Attorney Kris Brown said she believed Ricci premeditated the incident. She said he stole the gun from his mother two days before the incident and came to the house intending to shoot McElhaney.

“After he was arrested, he at first said he wanted to hurt him. He went over there to provoke a situation and aimed at him. Whether he changed his mind at the last minute when he fired the weapon, he created a substantial amount of harm,” she said.

Ricci apologized in court to McElhaney and said “it was a cowardly thing to do.”

Gibbons said it was a difficult case to sentence, not knowing Ricci’s intent. However, Gibbons said he felt the evidence pointed to an intent to cause harm.

“The court is very concerned that he went out and got a weapon and loaded it with hollow-point bullets. The bottom line is putting him on probation sends a horrible message to the community,” Gibbons said.