One of two Salinas brothers accused of attempting to beat a homeless man to death pleaded no contest to a drastically reduced charge Friday.
James DeLeon, 32, admitted to being an accessory after the fact by giving a false statement to police, his attorney Juliet Peck said, and is no longer charged with premeditated attempted murder.
His older brother, Robert DeLeon, 43, still faces charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
The brothers are owners of the XL Grindhouse restaurant at 129 Main St., known for beer and bar food with a Texas slant.
The two were arrested Nov. 21 by Salinas police after the 55-year-old victim fell into a coma at a San Francisco Bay Area hospital from severe head injuries allegedly suffered during a beating with a bat Oct. 11 near the restaurant.
Detectives had learned the brothers were angry with the man for "continuous loitering" around the eatery, a police press release said.
Robert DeLeon was also charged with enhancements alleging use of a weapon and inflicting great bodily injury. His attorney, Brian Worthington, could not be reached for comment late Friday.
After the brothers' arraignment last month, Worthington said his client is not a violent individual and has treated transients who regularly frequent the Oldtown area well, giving them water and food at times.
Peck said James DeLeon entered the plea Friday afternoon, just before a preliminary hearing began for his brother. The court held there was sufficient evidence for Robert DeLeon to go to trial.
"After a more thorough investigation, the (District Attorney's Office) recognized that the case was initially over-filed as to James," Peck said.
James DeLeon faced life in prison on his original charges.
Accessory after the fact can carry a three-year prison term that is served in county jail, but under a stipulated sentence, James DeLeon will be placed on felony probation after he is sentenced in February, Peck said. There was no agreement to testify as part of the plea, she said.
"It's important for the community to understand that the charge of accessory after the fact is based exclusively on a subsequent statement to the police in which James was attempting to protect a loved one," Peck said. "Under certain circumstances, false statements to the police, no matter how minor, can constitute accessory after the fact."
His bail was also reduced from $500,000 to $50,000, she said. According to jail records, DeLeon was still in the facility early Friday evening.
Peck said her client will return to running the brothers' restaurant, which has been managed by his sister, Angela DeLeon.
"James is committed to continuing his important work in our Oldtown area," Peck said. "He's coming back to run the business and to rebuild his relationships."
James DeLeon is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 19. Robert DeLeon's next court appearance will be in January.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.