Man burglarized local judge's home, authorities say

Gary Aaron Lyons
Gary Aaron Lyons

Jewelry was gone, a gun was missing, and all that remained was a retaliatory note in the home of a local judge.

This scene led to an arrest and conviction of a 31-year-old Los Osos man accused of burglarizing the home of Judge Dodie Harman, according to law enforcement sources.

Gary Aaron Lyons entered a plea of no contest Thursday before Judge Michael Barton in San Luis Obispo Superior Court to four charges, including residential burglary and grand theft. In a plea of no contest, a defendant is convicted without admitting guilt.

Barton said he expects Lyons to receive a sentence of seven years in state prison and one strike on his record for his conviction. Lyons is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 21.

Lyons has since moved, but he was Harman’s next-door neighbor in June when the burglary occurred while the judge was on vacation.

On June 23, undercover agents purchased a Smith and Wesson .38-caliber revolver from Lyons. The serial number was traced back to Harman, which led to a search of her home by a colleague and the discovery that jewelry and a firearm were missing. Agents also purchased methamphetamine from Lyons, according to investigators’ reports.

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office investigators further linked Lyons to the crime after finding his DNA on a note left on Harmon’s dresser after the heist.

The handwritten note appeared to come from a disgruntled person who’d appeared before Harman in court.

“I am sorry it come (sic) to this but it told you I wanted another chance and I would lose my child!” the note said. “But you (expletive) me anyways. It took me awhile to get your address but I did. I didn’t take much but I do feel justified. ... Good luck finding me moving to east coast Monday.”

The letter was signed “Your favorite looser (sic)” and cited a reference to Group 2009, which investigators thought might refer to the Proposition 36 program that Harman used to run in the county.

The Proposition 36 program offers drug treatment for convicts, who must report their progress to the judge and comply with probation conditions in lieu of incarceration.

But it’s unclear in the investigative documents exactly what ruling Harman made, if any, that may have affected Lyons.

Officials initially spoke with Lyons early in their investigation, and he told them he knew who lived in the home and that they got along fine. Lyons also said he’d brought the victim’s trash cans to the end of the driveway to be picked up while she was away.

“At no point during my conversation with Lyons did (the investigator) mention that the victim was on vacation or gone for an extended period of time,” the sheriff’s report said.

Lyons pleaded no contest to residential burglary, grand theft of a firearm, grand theft of about $25,000 worth of jewelry and sale of methamphetamines.

Lyons’ attorney, Gael Mueller, said after the hearing that her client’s crime is comparable to burglaries elsewhere and should be considered as such.

“Whether somebody breaks into a rich person’s home or a poor person’s home, it’s still burglary,” Mueller said. “I think there was a perception that this case was different because of who’s involved, but it should be treated the same as every case like it.”

The county court’s regularly assigned judges were disqualified from hearing the case because of their association to Harman. Barton, who previously presided in Santa Cruz County, was assigned to the case to avoid any conflict of interest.