Former Sacramento realty titan Michael Lyon had his probation revoked Friday in his first court appearance since his arrest on drug charges, and his attorney acknowledged later that Lyon faces the possibility of being sent to prison for up to four years.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and standing in a cage inside Sacramento Superior Court Judge Helena Gweon’s courtroom, the former Lyon Real Estate chief executive officer appeared to be a shell of the man he was before 2010, when he was first arrested on charges that he secretly recorded videos of his interactions with female escorts.
The 58-year-old Lyon, once an avid cyclist, philanthropist and Boy Scout leader who was a member of Sacramento’s elite circles, appeared emaciated and withdrawn during the brief court hearing at which his probation was revoked and bail denied.
“He’s a very sad man,” his longtime attorney, William J. Portanova, told a crowd of reporters and camera crews after court. “He’s been through a lot.”
Portanova called the situation “a nightmare,” and added, “it doesn’t look good.”
He said he has yet to review the arrest and evidence reports in the case, but that Lyon could be facing three to four years in prison if prosecutors succeed in pressing the drug case and probation violation he faces. Portanova added that until Lyon’s arrest on Wednesday morning, he was close to getting Lyon’s felony conviction from 2011 reduced to a misdemeanor and getting him off probation.
“So, things have changed,” a subdued Portanova said.
Lyon was arrested by Sacramento County probation officers on Wednesday morning in the Arden area home he was renting after he failed to appear for a meeting with probation on Sept. 12. Authorities seized an ounce of methamphetamine, morphine pills and a small amount of marijuana, all of it found in Lyon’s master bedroom.
As a result, he was jailed without bail on a probation violation, as well as one count of possession of methamphetamine for sale and one count of drug possession. A woman he was with, 40-year-old Shannon Lynn Campbell, also was arrested on drug charges and on a bench warrant for her failure to appear at a 2012 court hearing in a case in which she faced a check fraud charge.
Campbell, represented by attorney Candice Fields, appeared in court separately from Lyon, and both were ordered to return Tuesday for further proceedings.
Portanova said he has been visiting Lyon daily in the jail and stressed that his client is not beyond redemption.
“Like everyone else, he’s got problems, some deeper than other people’s, but deep down there is a very good man, a philanthropist and a family man,” Portanova said. “It all went bad, but it’s still in there and we’re going to find it, we’re going to pull it back out.”
He added that Lyon’s current problems are “something very recent that has come to the fore, and we’re still sorting out what happened and how it happened so fast.”
Lyon’s fall from grace began in 2010, when he was accused of secretly recording videos of his encounters with escorts, as well as using hidden cameras in his homes to record friends, nannies and others in bathrooms, showers and other private settings. He pleaded guilty in March 2011 to four felony counts of electronic eavesdropping and received a two-year prison sentence that Judge Gary Ransom suspended with a stern admonition that if Lyon reoffended he would be sent to prison.
Lyon served several months in the Sacramento County jail and under house arrest at his Carmichael home. He also was given five years’ probation and had done well under supervision until recently, his lawyer said.
“He’s been a perfect probationer, perfect for 31/2 years,” Portanova said. “He was well on his way to ending probation early and putting all of this behind him.”
Lyon once lived with his wife, Kimarie, and two sons (both now grown) in an exclusive Arden Oaks neighborhood in a 4,000-square-foot home where he hosted parties and Scout events, with youngsters using a zip line erected in the backyard. The original allegations against Lyon emerged during the couple’s bitter divorce, and investigators eventually concluded that Lyon had been secretly taping house guests, employees and others for at least two decades.
When he was arrested this week, he was living in a modest 2,300-square-foot rental home, where Portanova said Lyon let numerous acquaintances stay if they told him they were down on their luck. He provided them with cash and loaned them his vehicles, some of which could not be located after his arrest, Portanova said.
Portanova added that he could not predict what will happen to Lyon before reviewing evidence in the case, or say whether it is certain Lyon will go to prison.
“As it stands right now, there’s no decision made on that,” Portanova said. “But I can tell you that, from Mike’s standpoint, it is a straight uphill climb to change that outcome and we’re going to try to do everything we can for him …
“This system is pretty severe when you have a state prison sentence suspended over your head, but everything is dependent upon the facts.”
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