CORRECTION: According to court records, Michel Knight pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges: criminal conspiracy and contributing funds under an illegal name. The original report stated Knight only admiitted guilt on the former charge.
A Lake Elsinore businessman whose felony trial was due to begin today has reached a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
Michel Knight pleaded guilty today to one count of misdemeanor criminal conspiracy and contributing funds under an illegal name. He was immediately sentenced to 90 days in sheriff's custody and three years probation.
Knight was facing more serious charges before today's agreement was reached, including two felony counts each of perjury, suborning perjury and forgery. During today's proceedings a single charge of felony criminal conspiracy was reduced to a misdemeanor charge. An additional misdemeanor count of contributing funds under an illegal name was dismissed.
Knight is the owner of the Trevi Entertainment Center in Lake Elsinore as well as an entertainment center in Moreno Valley that was approved by that city this year.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Helios Hernandez agreed to a defense motion to reduce the felony conspiracy charge to a misdemeanor and accept his plea agreement.
The judge also dismissed the other charges for Knight -- also known as Elsayed Assameth.
The charges stemmed from Knight's hiding his involvement in a failed recall effort against former Lake Elsinore City Councilman Thomas Buckley in early 2010.
Buckley narrowly lost his reelection bid in November 2010.
Included in Knight's conditions of probation is a prohibition against having any contact -- even if indirect -- with Buckley. He is also prohibited from contact with Enelida Caron, who turned state’s evidence against him and pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of criminal conspiracy.
“An attack on the electoral system is an attack on the people, specifically in this case an attack on the people of Lake Elsinore by Michel Knight,” Buckley said. “I’m glad to see that he has now admitted that what he – and his defenders – have been denying all along: his involvement and his guilt.
“Going forward, Lake Elsinore residents need to keep this whole sordid affair in mind when they cast their ballots,” Buckley added, “and question the motivations and shun any political candidate or official with ties to Knight – past or current – like Manos, Park, and Hickman.”
According to published reports, at a 2011 preliminary hearing during which Caron pleaded guilty to conspiracy, she testified that current City Council candidate Steve Manos served as a consultant on the failed recall campaign.
Knight was also admonished Thursday against contributing to any political campaigns or holding public office, as well as participating in any political committees, during the terms of his three-year probation.
He has until Jan. 25 to enroll in an electronic anklet monitoring program -- at his own expense -- for his time under Riverside County sheriff's supervision, instead of jail time.