Ex-Fort Worth officer gets 5 years' probation for threatening friend of estranged wife

FORT WORTH -- Former Fort Worth police Cpl. Yatashka Jefferson was sentenced Wednesday to five years' probation for kicking down the apartment door of his estranged wife's male friend, threatening him with a gun, then firing in his direction after the man jumped off a second-story balcony to escape.

But 372nd District Court Judge Scott Wisch ordered Jefferson to serve 30 days in jail and participate in a batterers' intervention program.

Wisch also lectured the 32-year-old former gang officer for nearly 20 minutes about his attitude during his punishment hearing Wednesday.

Questioned by prosecutor Sheila Wynn, Jefferson refused to admit to numerous aspects of his crime, including that he took two guns with him to confront the man about his relationship with Jefferson's wife.

"You need to cut your gung-ho fighter pilot attitude so you'll have a chance of making it five years" on probation, Wisch said. "You are going to get a 30-day humility lesson."

Wisch said he was most disturbed by what he perceived as Jefferson's attempt to make jurors feel guilty for convicting him Tuesday after 41/2 hours of deliberation.

Asked by defense attorney John Gamboa whether he accepts responsibility for his actions, Jefferson told jurors Wednesday: "I do understand it was hard for you to come to that decision. I saw the tears in your eyes. It hurt me to have to accept that."

Wisch told Jefferson, "You don't have the right to lecture the jury that you understand if they made a mistake."

Jurors convicted Jefferson on Tuesday of burglary of a habitation and aggravated assault on Isiah Williams in the June 16 incident.

Wynn and co-prosecutor Michelle Dobson did not specifically seek prison time for Jefferson, who could have received up to life in prison for the burglary and 20 years for the assault. But Dobson noted in closing arguments that Jefferson had refused to accept responsibility for his actions, a necessary component for rehabilitation.

In contrast, Gamboa implored jurors not to send Jefferson to prison, where he would be a target for men he had imprisoned as a gang, vice and narcotics officer.

The same jurors who convicted Jefferson recommended that he receive suspended minimum sentences of five years for burglary and two years for assault, as well as serve the jail time and attend the batterers' program.

Wisch decided to order Jefferson to serve five years of probation on each charge, an option allowed by state law.

Wisch, who allowed Jefferson to remain free on bail until the trial ended, gave the former officer two weeks to report to jail to serve his 30-day sentence. He said Jefferson could benefit from the batterers' program even if he struck his estranged wife, Nikita, only once -- the day he assaulted Williams.

Before excusing the jurors, Wisch apologized for his lengthy comments to Jefferson in their presence.

"I've never heard a defendant in 30 years talk to a jury about their tears. You have nothing to be ashamed of," he said.

On Gamboa's advice, Jefferson declined to comment.

"We had a high mountain to climb, and we finally did it," Gamboa said. "Now he can get on with his life."

Wynn said jurors did what prosecutors asked them to do -- what they thought was right.

"I'm glad they held him accountable for what he did, because nobody is above the law. That was most important to us," she said.

MARTHA DELLER, 817-390-7857