OROVILLE, Calif. - An off-duty Yuba County deputy pleaded not-guilty Thursday to charges of assaulting a man in downtown Chico.
He's accused of beating up Felipe Zabala on Saint Patrick's Day at Burgers and Brew over a pair of sunglasses.
31-year-old Deputy Sheriff Nelson Magana pleaded not guilty to assault charges and charges of threatening a waiter who saw the fight. Magana reportedly threatened to attack him if he called the police.
"I think the evidence shows that my client was not the aggressor," said Magana's attorney, Roberto Marquez.
Marquez said his client was acting in self defense when he allegedly assaulted Zabala.
Magana faces charges of battery, assault and dissuading a witness.
Marquez said Zabala lunged at his client. The two got into a physical altercation near the downstairs elevator.
Magana's attorney said he is not a violent man. In fact, he was named Yuba County's peace officer of the year a week before the incident. Marquez said Zabala's criminal background is also a factor.
"He has a felony conviction for assault," he said. "He was a validated gang member. So I think he has some violent propensities that he doesn't want people to know about."
Marquez said Zabala was very aggressive.
"He [Magana] might have gotten the better of the fight because of his ability to defend himself but he had the absolute right to defend himself," he said.
Marquez added the reports that Magana threatened to beat up a waiter for calling 911 simply aren't true. Marquez explained Magana was worried because the waiter was following him after the fight.
"He's not a person and character to look and pick a fight," he said.
He's confident jurors will believe his client is innocent.
"I really am excited to go to trial on this case because, that's really when the facts of the case are going to come out," he added.
The trial is set for November 10. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Zabala was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon in 2005.
Magana has been ordered not to carry a firearm while the case is ongoing.