A judge in Southern California pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a murder charge that accuse him of fatally shooting his wife during a drunken argument.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson, 72, is free on bond, but he was ordered to not drink or visit bars or liquor stores.
He also can’t possess any weapons or ammunition and will wear a GPS monitor that requires him to stay in Orange, Riverside or Los Angeles counties.
Judge Ferguson was charged with one count of murder and weapons-related enhancements. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 30.
“We want to be clear this was an unintentional, accidental shooting and not a crime,” Paul Meyer, one of Judge Ferguson’s attorneys, said outside the courthouse. “We’ll be reviewing all of the evidence obviously, but we want our position to be very clear.”
Prosecutors said Judge Ferguson took a gun he had holstered on his ankle and fired one shot, mortally wounding his 65-year-old wife, Sheryl Ferguson, on Aug. 3.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Christopher Alex said Judge Ferguson texted his court clerk and bailiff afterward to say: “I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody. I’m so sorry.”
When he was arrested, prosecutors said Judge Ferguson smelled of alcohol and told police “Well, I guess I’m done for a while.”
The argument started while the Fergusons were at dinner in the Anaheim suburbs, according to prosecutors. Mr. Alex said the judge “pointed his finger at his wife in a manner mimicking a firearm” at the restaurant.
The prosecutor said the argument continued at their home, where Mrs. Ferguson said something to the effect of “Why don’t you point a real gun at me?” She was shot and killed shortly after.
Police seized 47 weapons and 26,000 rounds of ammunition from the judge’s home.
Judge Ferguson has been an Orange County judge since 2015, where he presides over criminal cases in the city of Fullerton.
He started his career as a district attorney for the county in 1983.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
• Matt Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.
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