SANTA ANA — A 45-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday and was immediately sentenced to 17 years in prison for opening fire on deputies who responded to his San Juan Capistrano home six years ago.
Robert Case Fee pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a semiautomatic rifle on a peace officer and admitted sentencing enhancements for being armed with a firearm and possessing metal-piercing ammunition.
As part of his plea deal, two counts of attempted murder with sentencing enhancements for discharge of a firearm were dismissed.
In April, a mistrial was declared when jurors deadlocked on the attempted murder charges 11-1 for acquittal. Fee, who has been in custody since April 27, 2016, has more than six years of credits for time behind bars.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies were called to Fee’s home at 27586 Paseo Castile about 6:30 p.m. April 27, 2016, when his wife reported her husband was suicidal and was in their garage with guns, according to court records.
When the deputies arrived, Fee “unleashed a hail of automatic rifle fire on two Orange County sheriff’s patrol deputies responding to his San Juan Capistrano home,” Deputy District Attorney Jake Jondle said in his trial brief for the case.
Fee’s then-wife, Kelly, called 911 because he threatened to kill himself, Jondle said.
After Fee opened fire on responding deputies they “scrambled for cover at the trunk of the car,” Jondle said.
The deputies then scrambled for cover behind another car that responded to the scene, Jondle said.
The deputies never returned fire, he said.
Fee put the weapon down and walked out from the garage and was arrested without incident, Jondle said.
“Miraculously, all the deputies escaped without being struck by any of the bullets as did the residents of the surrounding homes,” Jondle said.
Fee’s attorney, Jack Earley, told City News Service, “He knew it was a major screw-up.”
“He sent letters of apology to (deputies),” Earley said. “It was just a bad day.”
Earley said the defendant’s wife locked him in the garage and hid in their home with their two children, then ages 3 and 7, as she called 911.
“It’s a sad case… an example of why there needs to be stuff done with guns and mental illness,” Earley said. “Here you have a perfectly normal family man getting on with his life and his mental illness is out of control and he ends up doing something that if he could he would take it back in a minute.”
Fee’s wife said he had suffered from depression since she met him in junior high school, according to Earley.
Fee, who worked as a graphic designer, had gotten into a dispute earlier that day at work and went home, where he alarmed a co-worker with text messages, Earley said.