Keith Gallagher has no significant criminal history, and today the judge today told him quote, "It's not you that's the threat, it's the demon inside of you."
The judge also said he believes Gallagher can get the best mental health care at the local level, and that's why he did not hand down a prison sentence.
Keith Gallagher walked into court facing a maximum of nearly four years in prison for stalking Merced County Court Commissioner Gerald Corman and his wife Christine McFadden. Prosecutors say the case was especially frightening for McFadden, who gained national attention after her ex-husband murdered her four children in 2002.
"She's been pretty worried for her safety. She's expressed considerable concern for the safety of herself and her family, but she's been strong and she's been brave, and she's obviously been through quite a bit," said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto.
Prosecutors say Gallagher started sending threatening letters to the couple and spray painted vulgar messages outside their home after Commissioner Corman made a ruling that gave Gallagher's ex-wife full custody of their two sons. But the defense attorney argues that was unusual behavior for the former teacher with no prior felony convictions.
"He seems like a reasonable person. There may be some mental health issue that helped cause this event," said defense attorney David Renteria.
The judge agreed Gallagher may have mental health issues, saying his bizarre behavior seems driven by an inner demon. "It will end up reoccurring over and over again until you deal with whatever demon is driving that," said Judge Donald Shaver.
The judge ultimately sentenced Gallagher to five years of probation with mandatory participation in an outpatient mental health program. The sentence also includes 455 days in jail, but with time served and other credits, Gallagher should be out by the end of October.
"He felt for the longest time he was going to prison for a long time, and as it turns out he'll be released soon and will be getting services he needs," said Renteria.
The prosecutor said he is still concerned for Christine McFadden's safety, but the judge did issue a restraining order to keep Gallagher 1,000 yards away from McFadden and her husband. If he violates any part of his probation, Gallagher could still go to state prison.