Magician who threatened wife with gun freed from jail


An Arroyo Grande magician accused of firing a gun at his wife was released Tuesday from County Jail after receiving his sentence for a no contest plea to two charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Claude Yarbrough, 56, who gained international renown for innovative illusions with his wife, Charlotte Yarbrough, pleaded no contest in March to charges accusing him of shooting at his wife. She was not injured. He also pleaded no contest in July to threatening her with a firearm.

A no contest plea results in a conviction without an admission of guilt — though it essentially has the same punitive effect as a guilty plea.

Judge John A. Trice sentenced Yarbrough to 282 days in County Jail, as well as five years of formal probation.

Yarbrough already served 245 days, and received credit for good behavior for the additional 37 — accounting for his release.

Trice said he would take harsh action if Yarbrough violated conditions of his probation, which include having no contact with his wife.

“If you have any contact with your wife, I won’t blink to send you to prison,” Trice told Yarbrough.

Yarbrough faces a possible prison sentence of up to 16 years and four months if he violates his probation.

Other conditions of his probation include his compliance with the county Probation Department’s determination on how to address his mental health problems, as well as not possessing any weapons.

Yarbrough also now has two strikes on his record and faces 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted of a third felony crime.

Yarbrough’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said his client suffers from tinnitus — a perception of a ringing sound in a person’s ear — and depression.

Yarbrough vowed in court Tuesday to obey all laws and rebuild his life, adding that he never meant to harm his wife.

Funke-Bilu noted that his client didn’t have any criminal record before his arrest and called the progress Yarbrough has made in dealing with his mental illness “truly extraordinary.”

“This is absolutely the right decision for everyone involved,” Funke-Bilu said. “The heroes are the medical professionals who have treated him wonderfully.”

Yarbrough’s wife, Charlotte Yarbrough, wrote a letter to Trice calling her husband a “talented” and “exceptional” human being.

Charlotte Yarbrough, who wasn’t in court, also expressed her hope that her husband’s mental health issues would be addressed.

She also wrote that she hoped that Yarbrough would live near family in Orange County and stay clear of guns.