SANTA ANA, California—A Southern California judge accused of killing his wife during a drunken argument sent a text message to the court clerk and bailiff to tell them he had shot her, prosecutors said Friday when he charged with murder.
A court filing by prosecutors says Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson sent a text message minutes after the murder last week: “I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be tomorrow. I will be in custody. Very sorry.”
Ferguson is free after posting a million dollar bail. But prosecutors said they are seeking new bail conditions to protect public safety and ensure he doesn’t flee after authorities found 47 weapons, including the handgun used in the shooting, and more than 26,000 rounds of ammunition at his Anaheim home. . The weapons are legally owned, but a rifle registered in his name is still missing, they said.
The shooting occurred after Ferguson and his wife, Sheryl Ferguson, got into an argument at a restaurant on Aug. 3, the Orange County district attorney’s office said in the court filing. The argument continued after the couple returned to their home in the exclusive Anaheim Hills neighborhood. The court document says the wife said something to the effect of “why don’t you point a real gun at me?” and she pulled a gun from her holster and shot him in the chest.
His adult son called 911 and said his father had been drinking too much and shot his mother, the document says.
Jeffrey Ferguson also called 911 to vaguely report the shooting. When asked if he shot his wife, he said he didn’t want to talk about it right now and that she needed paramedics.
When officers arrived, Ferguson smelled alcohol and told them, “Oh man, I can’t believe I did this,” according to the document.
Ferguson, 72, was arrested at his home. He was released a day later and is scheduled to be arraigned on September 1.
Prosecutors on Friday charged Ferguson with murder with weapon-related enhancements. They want me to hand over his passport, wear an ankle monitor and not possess alcohol or firearms.
Ferguson’s attorneys, Paul Meyer and John Barnett, issued a brief statement and declined to answer questions. “This is a tragedy for the entire Ferguson family. It was an accident and nothing more,” they said.
Ferguson has been a judge since 2015. He handles criminal cases in the city of Fullerton, Orange County. He began his legal career with the Orange County District Attorney’s office in 1983 and later worked on narcotics cases, for which he won several awards. He served as president of the North Orange County Bar Association from 2012 to 2014.
In 2017, the Judicial Performance Commission reprimanded Ferguson for posting a statement on Facebook about a judicial candidate “with knowing or reckless disregard for the truth of the statement” and for being Facebook friends with lawyers appearing before him in court. , according to a copy of the agency’s findings.
Ferguson said on his Facebook page that he grew up in a military family and traveled around Asia as a child. He later attended college and law school in California. He and his wife got married in 1996.
The arrest shocked the Southern California legal community and officials have been grappling with how the case should be handled. The Orange County district attorney’s office asked state officials to assess whether there was a conflict of interest before filing charges. A judge in neighboring Los Angeles County will hear the case, authorities said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county jail, said Ferguson was released last week in accordance with pre-established rules for bail and the law. The Anaheim police agency, which arrested him, did not seek additional conditions for his release, said Jeff Puckett, assistant sheriff for Orange County custodial operations.
“We are simply the people who housed it as part of our county mandate to house arrestees,” he said. “The sheriff’s department cannot impose conditions.”
At the time of Ferguson’s arrest, the facts and circumstances did not warrant a bail upgrade, Anaheim police Sgt. Jon McClintock. He said the judge “has the same constitutional right to post bail as anyone else” and declined to comment on the district attorney’s office filing.
Orange County is made up of a group of cities (the most populous being Anaheim) that lie between Los Angeles and San Diego and together are home to more than 3 million people.
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