SALINAS, Calif. - A former Pacific Grove police commander made his first appearance in court Tuesday.
John Nyunt is accused of making criminal threats to his former wife Kristen Nyunt. Tuesday he pleaded not guilty.
"It involves a single telephone conversation that occurred over 14 months ago during which there was an emotional outburst, John was at his very worst, after months and months of psychological and emotional abuse, perpetrated by Kristin," said Juliet Peck, Nyunt's attorney.
Prosecutors say Nyunt threatened Kristin. The conversation was recorded.
"I don't think there is any question that neither John nor Kristin thought for a second that he would act on the threat, that he cut her throat or anything of that sort," said Peck.
Peck says the threat was never even reported to police and was only discovered by prosecutors while they prepared a case against Kristin, who was arrested last January.
She is awaiting trial on charges of identity theft, burglary and fraud.
"This was during a period of time during which the fact of Kristin's sophisticated criminality was being discovered and that is the context that all this is occurring," said Peck.
Nyunt, who began working at the Pacific Grove Police Department July 2007, was placed on leave last January when his wife was arrested. He retired in November 2013.
In court Tuesday, the judge granted prosecutors' request that Nyunt have no contact with any member of the DA's office or the Police Department, some of whom may have been mentioned in the recorded conversation.
"The conversation that was recorded contained statements by John that he deeply regrets during which he made some statements about other people for whom he cares deeply," said Peck.
"After reviewing the recording we felt it was an appropriate step," said prosecutor Steve Sommers.
Nyunt's bail was raised to $550,000, which his defense says they will seek to lower.
Sommers said the DA's office and the U.S. attorney's office are also looking into whether Nyunt had any involvement with his ex-wife's alleged crimes, including whether he might have aided in covering them up. These are separate cases.
Nyunt is expected to be in court March 11.