Juror bails out De Vaul
November 24, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
After voting Dan De Vaul guilty of safety and building code violations, Juror Number Five posted bail for the rancher who chose to go to jail rather than evict the homeless from his property.
“My son may not have the best Christmas, but it was the right thing to do,” said Mary Partin, a single mother who manages a radiology office, also known as Juror Number Five. “I couldn’t sleep last night knowing he was in jail.”
Partin said she caved to judicial pressure even though she believed De Vaul innocent of all charges.
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge John Trice offered De Vaul five years of probation in exchange for up to 90 days in jail along with a $1,000 fine. De Vaul elected to go to jail in an attempt to continue to provide thirty needy people with a place to live.
Trice sat bail at $5,000 pending a notice of appeal.
De Vaul was found guilty of having unpermitted mobile homes, excessive vehicles as well fire hazards on his property including an extension cord to a tent.
“Count how many cords are coming out of the ceiling in the courthouse snack room,” Partin said.
“The frustrating thing for me is that the county asked him (De Vaul) to keep a sex offender on the property and supplied a trailer for him to live in. Then they charge (De Vaul) for having that trailer on his property,” Partin said.
Supporters of De Vaul question how he could have had a fair trial when half of the jurors and all but one witness were county employees or involved in law enforcement.
“Juror Number 12, who has two family members in law enforcement, said ‘you are stupid’ after I voted not guilty on all charges,” Partin said.
Trice pulled Partin out of deliberations twice to talk to her.
“I asked him why I was being singled out and why he wasn’t also talking to those with strong opinions on the other side,” Partin said. “He got angry and said we are here to talk about your views.”
In October, De Vaul’s attorney Jeff Stulberg filed a motion for a new trial because Partin said she reluctantly agreed to vote guilty on the two counts after Trice reprimanded her and some of the jurors harassed her.
On the first day of deliberations, Partin said Juror Number Two claimed that with his wife’s position as a county probation supervisor and his job in law enforcement, he knew more about the case than he should know.
Last week, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy disagreed with De Vaul’s lawyers’ arguments that misconduct by Trice had tainted the jury. After oral arguments, Duffy immediately began reading from a previously prepared statement, leading observers to believe he had written his decision before hearing arguments.
In addition, De Vaul’s supporters wonder why Duffy, who served as the best man at Trice’s wedding, didn’t ask another judge to hear the motion.
De Vaul runs Sunny Acres, a clean and sober living facility, on his ranch on Los Osos Valley Road. He has housed between 30 to 75 low income and homeless people on the 72 acre property at any given time over the past nine years.
For more than 10 years, three neighbors of the vehicle-littered property, including former San Luis Obispo Councilwoman Christine Mulholland, have lodged complaints accusing De Vaul of code violations.
Opponents of De Vaul contend the property provides an unsafe environment for those who live there.
Earlier today, De Vaul’s appeal attorney Neil Tardiff, working pro bono, filed a notice with the San Luis Obispo Superior Courts that he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. Attorney Stulberg has also waived his fee.