Governor candidate's partial victory could still mean life in prison

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The one-time candidate for California governor, Tye Champ, won a partial victory in court Tuesday.

A jury found Champ not guilty on one count, and couldn't reach a unanimous decision on the most serious charges against him in an attempted murder trial. They did agree Champ was guilty of a felony that usually results in no more than a three-year sentence, but in this case, it could be life.

Tye Champ proved he's a man of many words during his 2014 campaign for governor -- a political run garnering more than 76,000 votes. But less than five months later, he was arrested on felony charges after shooting a neighbor, and the jury's decision in the case drew only two words from Champ.

"Thank you," he mouthed as they left the courtroom.

Prosecutors say Champ tried to kill the neighbor. He claimed it was self-defense. After weeks of evidence and four days of deliberations, the jury wrote one final note to the judge. They'd agreed on what they could, and agreed to disagree on the rest.

"We've reached verdicts as to counts three, four and five and are at an impasse with regards to count one," the note read.

The jury was split 9-3 on whether it was attempted murder and whether Champ committed assault with a firearm. And they agreed he was not guilty of shooting a horse.

"We're very relieved that the jury found Mr. Champ not guilty of the charge that he was found not guilty of and we'll be resuming the trial (Wednesday) afternoon," Champ's defense attorney Eric Schweitzer said.

But they found Champ guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. That's a felony in and of itself, and for Champ, it's a third strike and a possible life sentence. The jury actually comes back Wednesday to decide whether the prior convictions for manslaughter and assault with the intent to commit rape are valid.

If they are, Champ would get a life sentence. Prosecutors can still retry the other two counts.

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