Priest Assailant Sentenced to Probation

Gets Three Years for Guilty Plea to Assault, and Restitution

The UCSB student who attacked Isla Vista’s well-known pastor Jon Hedges last spring was sentenced on Thursday to three years probation after pleading guilty to felony assault and misdemeanor battery. He also must pay nearly $18,000 in restitution and complete 200 hours of community service.

Paul Gusman

The student, Paul Gusman, 22, is also an Army reservist. One night last May, the Geography major aggressively banged on Hedges’s door after he was out with friends and high on synthetic drugs that were rumored to be like “LSD times 10 plus meth.” Hedges opened the door to find Gusman without his pants. He was not wearing socks or shoes, either, Hedges said, and appeared disassociated, “like he was in a video game.”

Gusman proceeded to punch him in the face, allegedly as many as 30 times. Hedges said he decided not to strike back after glancing at a picture of “Mary with Child” hanging on his wall, even though he said he had “similar training” as Gusman did. (Hedges serves as a chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office.)

Hedges managed to get Gusman to briefly sit down, but when Gusman saw Melissa Hedges, Jon Hedges’s wife, calling the police, he sprang up and swung at the pastor again, Hedges recalled. Hedges ordered Gusman to go outside and sit down in the front yard while he went to the kitchen to get him a cup of apple juice. Gusman obeyed, but he smashed the antique chair to pieces when he sat in it. Foot Patrol deputies showed up and arrested Gusman, who was treated for an injured hand and booked in County Jail. He later posted bail, which a judge lowered to $200,000 after it was originally set at a half million dollars.

On Thursday, Gusman, dressed in a crisp blue button-up shirt and brown pants, told the Hedges, “A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of the harm I’ve done.” He was choked up as he looked directly at Melissa Hedges. He thanked them for their compassion. Gusman’s attorney, Bill Makler, declined to comment.

Jon and Melissa Hedges both spoke as well. Jon Hedges, who is known as “Father Jon,” told Gusman and the courtroom he was grateful no one was killed that night or that Gusman didn’t invade the home and inflict further damage. He said he would like to be part of the restoration process, and he objected to the court’s orders restricting Gusman from contacting the Hedges. Melissa Hedges said she has “had to relive this traumatic event hundreds of times. People just talk about it nonstop.”

On Friday, Gusman will also face a hearing before Judicial Affairs, according to Hedges. UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada declined to either confirm that or say whether Gusman was still enrolled as a student; she cited confidentially policies. Hedges said he plans to speak in favor of Gusman being allowed to finish his degree.

This case served as high-profile example of erratic behavior in Isla Vista as a result of synthetic hallucinogens. The last case was in 2015, when a UCSB student bled to death while high on what was colloquially known as “N-Bomb,” “Flakka,” or “bath salts.”

The Sheriff’s Office could not confirm exactly what Gusman ingested that night, and Makler, who previously called the drug “bad LSD,” declined to say. As part of his community service, Gusman will speak to teens at CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse) about his experience.

Hedges called the sentence “perfect,” though he said he remains concerned about the long-term impact on his wife. He said he was glad he did not fight back that night — with his hand “or other means” — because they would not have had the same outcome. Asked about the rise of synthetic drugs in Isla Vista, Hedges said behavior in the predominantly college town seems more outrageous. Just the other night, a drunken neighbor pounded on Hedges’s door at about midnight. That was the second “assault on the precinct” in a year, he said, in all the decades he and his wife have lived there.


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