A man involved in a large fight at the Sikh Temple in Turlock has been convicted, but he can avoid jail time by completing an anger-management course and staying out of trouble for another year.
Initially, Gurdev Singh was one of six people criminally charged in connection with the Jan. 10 brawl that stemmed from a power struggle between two factions at the temple. When Singh agreed to a plea deal this week, he was the only defendant who still faced a felony charge.
Singh on Tuesday pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of using offensive words likely to provoke violence. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury.
The defendant allegedly swung a musical instrument called a chimta at a group of men during the fight, hitting one man on his head and another on his arm.
As part of his sentence, Singh was ordered to successfully complete an anger-management course within a year, according to John Goold, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
Goold said Singh also was ordered to stay 100 yards away from the victims, except when he’s attending services at the temple. He has to conduct himself peacefully around the victims, who also worship at the temple.
Singh is scheduled to return to court for his formal sentencing hearing Dec. 1, 2017. If the defendant does not violate the court orders, he will be allowed to withdraw his no-contest plea and the misdemeanor charges will be dropped, Goold said.
If Singh has violations or has been charged with a new crime, prosecutors could ask the court to send him to jail for up to 180 days.
Four other defendants were charged with felonies for their alleged involvement with the brawl: Balwinder Kaur Bagri; Manjit Kaur Johal; Anjit Kaur Bagri; and Jaspreet Kaur Johal. All of their charges were dropped in late August.
Sandeep Singh was charged with one misdemeanor count of brandishing a deadly weapon other than a gun. His case is still pending and he’s scheduled to return to court March 20 for a pretrial hearing.
Witnesses have said in court that Sandeep Singh became angry and picked up a ceremonial sword before swinging it at others. He has said he brandished the sword in self-defense and his attorney has called him a peaceful man.
Authorities have said the fight was precipitated by a power struggle between two factions involved in a legal dispute over leadership of the temple on Fifth Street. The dispute had been playing out in court and meetings with law enforcement over two years but escalated to violence during services.