A Riverbank woman who pleaded no contest to assaulting her estranged husband with a can of wasps, then tried to withdraw her plea, Friday decided to stick with a two-year prison deal after all.
And she won't have to go to prison.
After 15 months behind bars, Angela Nellany has just 14 more days to serve, once credits for good behavior are factored in. So Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley said the 51-year-old mother of two can finish her time in a local jail.
Nellany seemed pleased with the outcome.
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"Thank you, your honor," she said.
It was an about-face for the defense, because the hearing had been set so the judge could hear from two women who filed paperwork with the court to raise doubts about alleged victim Paul Nellany's role in the wasp incident and the investigation that followed.
One suggested that Paul Nellany, her former boyfriend, conspired with a friend to make up the wasp story. The other said Paul Nellany assaulted her when she broke off their relationship, an allegation that Angela Nellany could have used if she had asserted a battered woman's defense at trial.
A motion by defense attorney Martin Baker sought to withdraw Angela Nellany's plea and take the case to trial.
Deputy District Attorney Shawn Barlow opposed that move and had investigators from the Modesto police and county Sheriff's Department on hand to show that neither woman made official reports.
Then the whole thing was dropped without explanation.
Paul Nellany, 52, could not be reached for comment.
The case began in December 2006, when a stream of buzzing wasps came flying out of a grape soda can that Paul Nellany found in his pickup truck.
During a preliminary hearing, he told the court he suspected foul play by his wife because she loves grape soda and knows that he is deathly allergic to wasp stings. He said he dismissed the matter, concluding that it must have been some kind of freak incident.
In the months to come, Paul Nellany heard rumors that his wife, who was living with friends, was making lots of threatening remarks about her cheating husband. The couple had split up after 20 years of marriage and they were fighting over custody of two children.
Mutual friends told the court that Angela Nellany talked about using wasps to get back at her husband and even asked some of them to help her retrieve a wasp nest she spotted on the roofline of a friend's home.
Things came to a head Super Bowl Sunday in 2007, when a young man showed up at Paul Nellany's home on River Cove Drive in Riverbank, saying he had been hired to finish the job the wasps left undone.
Anthony Hall told the court that Angela Nellany offered him $600 to kill Paul Nellany, adding that she wanted the deed done in a way that was slow and painful. He said he egged on a distraught woman, taking $300 as a down payment even though he was not going to kill anyone.
But Hall was not able to get Angela Nellany to talk about the alleged murder-for-hire plot during a recorded telephone call placed from the Sheriff's Department. And he faced charges of his own, for credit card theft and drug possession.
As the Nellany case headed to trial, Hall skipped out on his court appearances. Later, he was picked up by the authorities, convicted and sent to prison for four years.
The prosecutor said Angela Nellany, who initially was charged with attempted murder and solicitation to murder, got a deal because both sides faced risks had the case gone to trial.
If she had been convicted at trial, Angela Nellany could have been sentenced to seven years to life in prison. But a jury could have acquitted her as well, concluding that the case was little more than a family dispute gone awry.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.