BARSTOW Former Barstow Police Department officer and one-time City Council candidate Richard Villegas pleaded not-guilty to a roster of seven charges against him at the Barstow courthouse Thursday.

Barstow police arrested Villegas Tuesday on suspicion of attempted kidnapping, robbery, and making criminal threats. As of his arraignment Thursday, the District Attorney's Office had added several new charges.

According to the complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office, Villegas was charged with three counts of criminal threats and one count of dissuading a witness, with the alleged victim being his wife, Tiara Villegas. He was charged with second-degree robbery and attempted kidnapping against a second alleged victim, Christopher Himmelrick. He was also charged with possession of an assault rifle.

The date listed for the weapons charge was July 14, 2008, but according to the charging document, the other crimes were allegedly committed Tuesday, the same day Villegas was arrested.

Private attorney Jon Mahlum represented Villegas, who was still in custody at the West Valley Detention Center and appeared via video.
Judge Cheryl C. Kersey left Villegas' bail set at the $500,000 but agreed to hold a bail hearing Friday morning.

Family members of Villegas who came to court for the arraignment declined to comment on the case. Eddie U. Garcia, a family friend who was also present, said only that the charges stemmed from "a domestic situation."

Barstow Police Department Det. Keith Libby said he could not comment on the case.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Julie Peterson was away from the office and not available for comment after the hearing.
Villegas' next appearance to follow the bail hearing was scheduled for April 14.

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(760) 256-4123 or asewell@desertdispatch.com