Magician gets jail time

courtesy photo

The Arroyo Grande magician who gained international renown for innovative illusions with his wife pleaded no contest Tuesday to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon for threatening her in July.

Claude Yarbrough, 56, entered his plea, which stipulates he won’t spend more than a year in County Jail for firing shots into the floor that missed his wife, Charlotte Yarbrough, on July 8, as well as another incident in which he threatened her with a firearm on July 3.

A no-contest plea in felony cases is similar to a guilty plea and results in a conviction.

Charges against Yarbrough of criminal threats and negligently discharging a firearm were dropped along with an alleged misdemeanor probation violation under the plea.

The married magicians — who go by the stage names of Jonathan and Charlotte Pendragon — have appeared in a dozen television specials and “America’s Got Talent” and are in the 2005 Guinness Book of Records for performing the fastest transformation illusion in the world for their version of Houdini’s “Metamorphosis.”

They also have performed at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande.Judge John Trice said that Claude Yarbrough risks a state prison sentence of 16 years and four months if he fails to meet the conditions of the agreement.

Yarbrough has been held without bail at County Jail since August after he allegedly violated a court protective order and returned to his home after posting bail of $100,000 — a charge that was dropped.

The conditions of his plea agreement include a promise to be in court on March 22 after being released from custody for his father’s funeral later this month in Orange County, as well as not contacting his wife. He’s scheduled for sentencing April 8.

Trice said that mental illness Yarbrough suffered affected the stipulated sentence. Yarbrough’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said his client is undergoing mental health treatment and his illness had manifested itself for a long time.

“I believe he suffered a breakdown,” Funke-Bilu said. “He’s not a violent man. These incidents forced him to address his mental health aggressively.”

Yarbrough apologized in court to his wife of 33 years, saying that the incident happened because he was overcome by his condition and that he loved her.

“I’m really sorry for what happened,” Claude Yarbrough told her, addressing his comments through Judge Trice. “ … I’m sorry I fell apart.”

The couple technically is still married, according to prosecutors, though the specific nature of their current relationship is unclear.

In a sheriff’s report completed after Yarbrough fired near his wife’s feet in July, she said that her husband suspected her of having an affair and was “obsessing with this idea.”