Unequal justice favors sheriff in domestic fight
March 25, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
Laws written to protect domestic abuse victims were apparently sidestepped by officials of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department in an attempt to protect the county’s top cop, Sheriff Pat Hedges.
Hedges’ wife, Sandy Oneal-Hedges, called a 911 operator in January after the sheriff, according to sources, blocked her exit from a room while screaming profanities at her.
Frightened by the argument, one of two young children in the home entered the room. Sheriff Hedges then turned his verbal assault on the eight-year-old child, said a source who asked to remain unidentified.
State law requires law enforcement personnel and social workers to report domestic disturbances in which children are involved.
Asked why she did not file a report when faced with the fact that children were present, Sheriff’s Sgt. Sandra Leber, one of two deputies responding to the call, said, “There was no sign of child abuse. [And] if something happens to her (Oneal-Hedges), it is your fault. You wrote the article.”
Officials’ reports of the duration of the deputies’ visit to Hedges’ North County home vary from 15 minutes to more than one hour.
“(Undersheriff Steve) Bolts gave the correct time when he said they were there for an hour,” one source said. “Then (sheriff’s spokesman Rob) Bryn says 20 minutes, and Bolts changes his story to match Bryn’s.”
Numerous law enforcement personnel contacted by CalCoastNews agreed that domestic disturbance calls generally take longer than 20 minutes. In this case, Leber began her duties by interviewing the couple separately. Then Sheriff Hedges was allotted 15 to 20 minutes to pack up his belongings. Before he left, he was given time to say his goodbyes to the children.
Hedges moved back in the home shortly after he left. On March 22, he again moved from the home, according to court records.
On January 26, the sheriff’s records department provided a report to CalCoastNews . According to the official account, the deputy and the sergeant both arrived at 5:52 p.m. and left at 6:12 p.m
The department is required to provide a factual account of circumstances surrounding the incident, including time and location of all complaints for assistance, according to Government Code section 6254(f)(2).
Oneal-Hedges filed for a legal separation Tuesday citing irreconcilable differences. According to court records, she has access to only $200 in a joint account.
According to her declaration, Oneal-Hedges refrained from listing the couple’s alleged marital difficulties in her separation papers because of her husband’s position in the county.
Hedges has a history of alleged abusive behavior and extramarital affairs with current and former employees, according to court records and sources. Last weekend, he was spotted around town with his latest girlfriend, an ex-sheriff’s dispatcher currently working in the restaurant business.
During the past few years Hedges has been making headlines. In 2007, he arrested Charles Lynch for running a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. A year later he was accused of illegally taping a sheriff’s department employee. He recently announced he will not seek reelection.